The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has vowed to pursue charges against the masterminds of post-election violence in Kenya after the country missed a key interim deadline for setting up a local tribunal.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC’s prosecutor, on Wednesday “reiterated his resolve” to prosecute “those most responsible” for the violence that rocked Kenya last year and killed 1,300 people, his office said in a statement.
It came on the day Kenya missed its third internationally-set deadline for making progress on establishing a local tribunal to try senior figures – including several cabinet ministers – accused of orchestrating the violence.
Kenya, the economic hub of east Africa, would be the most developed country to have cases at the ICC and the first whose cases did not relate to struggles between armed rebel movements and national governments.
“Kenya will be a world example on managing violence,” Mr Moreno-Ocampo said.
The lack of momentum on setting up a local tribunal – as recommended by an independent commission that said the ICC should be a court of last resort – has become a potent symbol of the Kenyan coalition government’s failure to reform.
Its lack of action on reforms pledged to tackle the underlying political and economic causes of last year’s crisis last week led Washington to warn it would ban several Kenyan politicians and bureaucrats from visiting the US.
That threat came as nearly five million Kenyans are suffering from extreme hunger because of a drought whose effects could have been mitigated, critics of the government say, if it had acted on warning signs that were visible as early as last year.
In consultation with Kenya’s leaders, the ICC prosecutor had set Wednesday as a deadline for the government to show it was making progress on setting up a local tribunal. But the government admitted last week that it would miss the deadline.
Parliament has twice rejected a bill that would have created a special tribunal. But analysts say president Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, prime minister, have not shown sufficient determination in rallying support for it.
“Decisive consultations between the prosecutor and the Kenyan [political leaders] will take place in the coming weeks. Justice will not be delayed,” the ICC statement said on Wednesday.
It said Mr Moreno-Ocampo favoured a “three-pronged” approach to Kenya: the ICC would prosecute the alleged masterminds of the violence; other perpetrators would be tried in Kenya, at a tribunal or elsewhere; and a truth and reconciliation commission would analyse the crisis and events leading up to it.
The four other countries with cases at the ICC, over alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, are all African: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, the Central African Republic, and Sudan.
Separately on Wednesday, the head of Kenya’s anti-corruption commission resigned after President Kibaki’s decision to reappoint him earlier this month sparked outrage in parliament and among ordinary Kenyans.
Critics of Aaron Ringera said he had shown little resolve in fighting the corruption that has blighted Kenya for decades, but in a resignation speech on Wednesday he said he had done the best he could.
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