Rift over Kenyan judiciary

2011-01-29 23:15

Nairobi - A rift developed in Kenya's coalition government Saturday as Prime Minister Raila declared "null and void" key judiciary appointments made by the president.

President Mwai Kibaki on Friday announced a new chief justice, attorney general and director of public prosecutions in a move aimed at revamping Kenya's weak judiciary and adding credibility to attempts to have high-profile Kenyans facing International Criminal Court prosecutions tried locally.

Odinga, who came to power in 2008 in a power-sharing deal that ended months of bloody post-election violence, was in Ethiopia for an African Union meeting on Ivory Coast at the time. He rejected the appointments, saying he had not been consulted contrary to a statement issued by the president's office.

"Without a doubt this decision has thrown the country into a major Constitutional Crisis and may be the beginning of the end in respect of the implementation of the reform agenda if not corrected and reversed," Odinga said in a statement.

Kenya is reforming its justice system as it aims to head off a repeat of violence that claimed over 1,300 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands in the wake of December 2007's disputed presidential elections.

Kibaki appointed lawyers Alnashir Visram as chief justice, Githu Muigai as attorney general and Kioko Kilukumi as director of public prosecutions.

The premier said he believed the appointments would do nothing to end decades of impunity that have seen successive governments steeped in graft escape punishment.

"The appointments have been made to serve the interests of a few people, including elements within upper echelons of government who have serious credibility and integrity issues and constitute the networks of impunity," he said.

The two men and their backers have been at loggerheads on more than one occasion since the coalition government was formed, most recently when Odinga opposed moves to scupper the ICC probe.

The ICC chief prosecutor in December named six people as being those considered most responsible for the post-elections violence.

Uhuru Kenyatta, finance minister and son of the nation's first president, and former Odinga ally William Ruto, currently suspended from his ministerial position to face corruption charges, are the most high-profile suspects.

Kenya is expected to secure the backing of the African Union at this weekend's summit in Ethiopia for its attempt to have the United Nations Security Council defer the ICC investigations for one year.

ICC judges are expected in March to rule on whether the six suspects should face trial.

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