Bloomberg News

Kenyan Victims of Post-Election Violence Pray for Justice

January 31, 2012

(Updates with comment from electoral commission head in 12th paragraph.)

Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Erick Kioko says it would take a miracle for his three attackers to face punishment for hacking off his left arm with a machete during the ethnic violence that followed Kenya’s disputed presidential election four years ago.

His desire for justice won’t be met by the International Criminal Court’s decision to prosecute four Kenyans, including Uhuru Kenyatta, who quit as finance minister yesterday, with crimes against humanity. Most lower-level perpetrators have gone free because Kenya hasn’t set up domestic courts to try people involved in the fighting that killed 1,500 and cut agricultural production and tourism, the mainstays of the economy.

“I’d be happy if the people who chopped off my arm were apprehended, but since I’ve reported it to the police nothing has happened,” Kioko, a 28-year-old unemployed father of three, said in an interview inside his one-room metal shack in Nairobi, the capital. “My only choice now is to pray and wait for God to deal with them.”

Kenya’s failure to prosecute the mid-level organizers and individual perpetrators has created a sense of impunity that may doom efforts at reconciliation in local communities and create conditions for further violence at the next election due to take place no later than March 2013, Neela Ghoshal, East Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch, said by phone from Nairobi on Jan. 23.

‘Culture of Impunity’

“The International Criminal Court is only the first step in breaking the back of this impunity,” Maina Kiai, director of Nairobi-based InformAction, a non-profit group that promotes political accountability, said in an interview. “Trying lower- level cases locally is the key to reversing the culture of impunity that has long kept Kenya’s political class in power.”

Attorney-General Githu Muigai said on Jan. 24 he plans to approach Chief Justice Willy Mutunga about setting up a special unit within the High Court to deal with cases that are “internationally criminal” in nature. The unit may help handle some of the 5,000 “files” connected to crimes following the last general election, he said.

The violence that erupted after the 2007 vote exposed friction among Kenya’s 42 ethnic groups, which center primarily on land, resources and power, and unearthed rivalries dating back to before British colonial rule ended in 1963. It forced 300,000 people to flee their homes.

Ethnic Clashes

Clashes broke out after President Mwai Kibaki, an ethnic Kikuyu, won a second term in office in an election opposition supporters said was rigged. In one of the deadliest incidents, at least 30 people, mainly Kikuyus, died when ethnic Kalenjin burned down a church where they sought refuge on New Year’s day in Eldoret, 265 kilometers (165 miles) northwest of Nairobi.

The fighting stopped after former United Nations Secretary- General Kofi Annan negotiated an agreement to leave Kibaki as president and install his main rival, then opposition leader Raila Odinga, a Luo, as prime minister.

The damage to East Africa’s largest economy, which had a reputation as a safe investment and tourist destination in a volatile region, was immediate.

Growth slowed to 1.7 percent in 2008, from 7.1 percent, because of a fall in agricultural output in the world’s largest exporter of black tea and a decline in tourism, which generates 10 percent of economic output. A repeat of the disturbances in the next elections would have a similar impact, Maplecroft, the London-based risk analyst group, said in an e-mailed note yesterday.

Political Temperature

“We want to appeal to the political class to bring down the political temperature,” Ahmed Issack Hassan, chairman of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, told reporters today in Nairobi. “The political class needs to help us” stage peaceful, free and fair elections, he said.

Besides Kenyatta, who will remain deputy prime minister, The Hague-based ICC will try lawmaker William Ruto, Francis Muthaura, who quit yesterday as head of Kenya’s public service, and Joshua Arap Sang, a radio presenter. All four men deny responsibility and said they’ll appeal the ruling.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo initiated investigations into the chaos after Kenyan lawmakers blocked several attempts to create a dedicated tribunal. In August, the court dismissed Kenya’s request to stop its probe, saying the country failed to demonstrate it’s capable of taking over the cases.

The lack of political will to prosecute post-election violence cases locally reflects a broader failure by Kenyan authorities to uphold the rule of law, Paul Muite, a lawyer and former lawmaker, said yesterday in a phone interview.

New Constitution

A new constitution enacted in 2010 was meant to root out corruption and reorganize the justice system, characterized by Transparency International in its 2011 East African Bribery Index as one of the country’s most graft-prone institutions.

The UN said in a 2009 report that police officers were guilty of carrying out “systematic and widespread” extra- judicial killings during the post-election violence and against the outlawed Mungiki group.

Kioko said regardless of the outcome of the ICC trials, his attackers will probably go free. He hasn’t heard from the police since his mother identified the arm from his wristwatch and buried it in a pit at Nairobi’s crowded Mathare slum.

Eric Kiraithe, Kenya’s police spokesman, didn’t answer two calls to his mobile phone yesterday seeking comment. Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo didn’t answer his mobile phone, while Alfred Mutua, the government’s spokesman, said he was unable to immediately comment.

“There are still the people at the local level that are free who caused post-election violence,” Kioko said. “There is little likelihood they will be charged.”

--Editors: Paul Richardson, Karl Maier

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah McGregor in Nairobi at smcgregor5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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