There are good reasons why the government is breaking its back to promulgate legislation on a local tribunal to handle post-election violence cases. The most obvious of these is the pressure from international interests led by Kofi Annan.
For reasons not yet clear, the international community wants the trial of suspects in post-election violence cases carried out at home. Maybe the whole Kenyan story is now tiring and the international community wants to put it behind them.
It is not far-fetched to imagine that the rest of the world does not want to get tangled up in our mess for years without end. They would want to see a tribunal set up in Nairobi, run by Kenya and paid for by Kenyans. Once it is up and running, Annan can be left to prefect it. Another possibility is that some countries like America are not that keen to promote the International Criminal Court. America voted against the Rome statutes that set up the court.
Our government, as you can imagine, is quite powerless in this situation. For once, I am quite sympathetic with Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the situation he finds himself in. He has no choice but to go along with the preference of the international community yet this has become a very politically expensive position for him. Amazingly, it is said that the suspects of the post-election violence cases want the Hague option. In their view, the procedures involved before a case can start at The Hague are so long and convoluted that it will be a long while before they are ever called to answer. Others, however, have more honourable concerns. The investigation process of a local tribunal will invariably involve local policemen and law enforcement officers. We all know how immune our systems are from manipulation!
In demanding a Hague solution, the suspects have the surprising support of their enemies at home. Those who want to see the suspects tried and jailed are campaigning for the trials to take place at the International Court. Their fear is the same as that of some suspects; that local institutions are so amenable to manipulation that no justice could result from a local trial. These fears aside, there are good reasons why a local tribunal is the best option.
First, the tribunal will develop our local capacity to handle cases of such magnitude. Maybe we could eventually maintain the tribunal as a permanent court to try abuses of human rights. Secondly, the local tribunal would handle more cases and deal with the post-election matters more thoroughly than The Hague. At The Hague, they only want the “big fish”.
Paul Mwangi is a Nairobi-based lawyer