Kenyans tell of poll horror

2012-10-25 21:52


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Pipeline Camp - Gathered in a tight circle, Kenyans who have waited almost five years for justice following horrific poll unrest told the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor of their struggle on Thursday.

In her first official visit to Kenya, The Hague-based ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sat surrounded by those displaced by deadly post-election violence in 2007-2008, still living in a squalid camp of tightly packed tents.

The ICC will try four Kenyans in April accused of fomenting the violence that left more than 1 000 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, but the victims also want the lower-ranking perpetrators to face justice.

Kenya has so far failed to try even a single case stemming from the violence.

"I refused to go back to my home because the person I witnessed attacking us, killing my children and burning my house, still lives there," 62-year old Beth Wanjiru told the prosecutor.

"He should be made to reveal who his commanders were," she said.

"The two principals, President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, should be made to answer why they let their supporters get out of hand in a fight for their votes," said camp resident Joseph Muhia.

"When we were being attacked, we were told it's because of rigged elections. We did not participate in the rigging, those who did should also face charges."

Kenya plunged into violence after the 27 December 2007 general elections with political riots turning into ethnic killings when the results were disputed.

Find the truth

Rival groups launched reprisal attacks in which homes were torched and people hacked to death in the country's worst violence since independence in 1963.

Bensouda, on a five-day tour of Kenya, on Thursday visited displaced people in the Rift Valley, one of the areas hardest hit by the violence, listening to those affected.

Unlike her predecessor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who never visited the camps in person, she toured the impoverished settlement holding 966 families outside Nakuru, some 160km west of the capital Nairobi.

"Bensouda please undertake to find out the factual truth about post-election violence before heading back home," one banner read, held up as she went round the camp.

"I want to assure you that though you never felt our physical presence, we have been collecting all the information we need from your colleagues," Bensouda told the residents.

Two of the four to be tried by the ICC - Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, 50, and former agriculture minister William Ruto, 45, - plan to run in presidential elections due in March.

Kenyatta and ex-civil service chief Francis Muthaura, 65, each face five charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, persecution, deportation and other inhumane acts.

ICC trials

Ruto and radio presenter Joshua Arap Sang, 36, who were opposition supporters in 2007, each face three charges of crimes against humanity.

As Bensouda walked through the camp, where vegetable plots are squeezed between basic shelters, she told residents there would be no immunity for any suspect, regardless of their office.

"Ours is a judicial, not political process," the Gambian prosecutor said, adding that the ICC prided itself on its independence.

But she also had to dampen expectations, as well as offer support to those who fear that the ICC trials - to start just weeks after new polls, or even during them if there is a second round vote - could risk opening up old wounds.

"I want to manage your expectations and to let you know that the ICC cannot try everyone of the low level and middle level perpetrators of the violence," she said.

"However, we will ensure that justice is done through going after the top level commanders," she added.

Read more on:    international criminal court  |  kenya  |  east africa

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