5 Nov 2010

Will justice for Kenyans be done?

A new chapter has opened in the story of who will be held to account for the violence that followed Kenya’s elections in late 2007, writes Lindsey Hilsum.

I saw the International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, in London today, which means – contrary to reports in the Kenyan press, that he’s not in The Hague meeting William Ruto, the former Kenyan Minister of Education. He may be a clever man, but he can’t be in two places at once.

Nonetheless, he confirmed that Mr Ruto has been seeing staff in his office. And it opens a new chapter in the story of who will be held to account for the violence which followed Kenya’s elections in late 2007.

For those who don’t know (or can’t remember) what happened, the best account of the violence is the film Getting Justice, reported by Maina Kiai and produced by Lucy Hannan (I declare an interest – they’re friends of mine and I gave some advice on the film). I witnessed some of the violence myself, seeing men with arrow-wounds in Kericho hospital, and then landing in a helicopter north of Kericho to be met by thousands of men armed with traditional weapons – spears, bows and arrows, machetes and axes.

Since then, Kenyan politics has been convulsed by the issue of impunity. Who will pay for the deaths, rapes and attacks? Two politicians in particular, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta, have been in the frame. Mr Ocampo won’t say whether they’ve been indicted, but everyone in Kenya expects their names to be on the list. The re-alignment of Kenyan politics, which has brought Prime Minister Raila Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki together in a fragile coalition, and pushed out Mr Ruto, was brought about partly because of manoevres around who was likely to be indicted.

So why did Mr Ruto go to The Hague? Mr Ocampo said: “I offered him the opportunity to be heard. My duty is to conduct an impartial investigation, so he took up that invitation and came to explain.”

Explain what? Mr Ocampo wasn’t going to say. But he said that he had written to all those who complained that they did not receive fair treatment by the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence conducted by Justice Philip Waki, inviting them to tell the ICC whatever they knew.

It’s a smart move by Mr Ruto. The ICC does not formally allow for plea bargaining, but ‘co-operation’ is likely to be rewarded. Some news reports suggest that Mr Kenyatta and others may soon follow Mr Ruto to The Hague, trying to defend themselves even before they’ve been charged. Mr Ocampo seemed optimistic today that justice for Kenyans will be done – but the question now is will it increase or decrease the likelihood of violence in the run up to the next elections in 2010?