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Africa

Odinga, Kibaki agree to election tribunal

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Latest update : 2008-12-17

In an important step towards healing Kenya's deep rifts, President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga signed an agreement to set up a tribunal to try suspects involved in the deadly violence following last December's elections.

Reuters - Kenya's president and prime minister have signed an agreement to set up a tribunal to prosecute those behind the worst post-election violence in the country's history, the government said on Wednesday.

 

Signing the agreement was a first step in implementing an official report into the bloodshed that killed 1,300 people and drove 300,000 from their homes after a disputed presidential election last December.

 

The violence shattered Kenya's image as a bastion of peace in a fractious region, hurting its booming economy and those of neighbouring countries that rely on Kenyan goods and transport links to its Mombasa port.

 

Analysts say full implementation of the report is an important test of whether east Africa's biggest economy can make a break with its corrupt, ethnic-based politics.

 

"The agreement is signed by both President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga," the government said.

 

"The parties shall also ensure that any person convicted of a post-election violence offence is barred from holding any public office or contesting any electoral position," it said.

 

Analysts said while this was a good step, there was a long way to go and still some political resistance to a tribunal.

 

"If you look at it against the background it has come from, the government is acting under duress," political commentator Kwamchetsi Makokha told Reuters.

 

"Someone is either leaning heavily on them or they have seen that there is no escape. In any case, it is too early to celebrate," he said.

 

 

 

"CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY"

 

Kibaki's election win was disputed by then rival Odinga who accused the president of stealing the vote.

 

The protagonists later formed a coalition government and Odinga, a former political prisoner, became Kenya's first prime minister since independence from Britain in 1963.

 

Judge Philip Waki caused a political storm when he handed former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan a sealed envelope with around 10 names of mostly senior personalities accused of masterminding the violence.

 

Waki set timelines for the establishment of the "Special Tribunal for Kenya" and its enactment into law. He said failure to follow the steps on time would result in the envelope being sent to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

 

The first step was signing the agreement. A bill known as "The Statue for the Special Tribunal" will now be submitted to parliament and must become law within 45 days.

 

"The bill is aimed at paving the way for the establishment of a Special Tribunal that will seek accountability against persons bearing the greatest responsibility for crimes against humanity," the government said in a statement.

 

The tribunal is expected to start in March and will be made up of Kenyans and non-Kenyans. It will be headed by a non-Kenyan in the interest of fairness, according to a draft bill.

 

Both the Waki report and another led by South African judge Johan Kriegler also blamed the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) for the election violence. They said it was incompetent and caused confusion during the count.

 

On Tuesday, parliament passed a constitutional amendment bill which disbanded the commission and established an interim body to review the constitution and supervise a referendum.

Date created : 2008-12-17

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