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U.S. chides Kenya for inaction on post-poll chaos
Tue Aug 4, 2009 10:47am EDT
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By Andrew Cawthorne
NAIROBI (Reuters) - The United States scolded Kenya on Tuesday for its failure to create a local court to deal with the perpetrators of post-election chaos last year that was the worst violence since independence from Britain in 1963.
In a strong message to one of its main African allies hours before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's arrival, the U.S. government expressed "deep concern" at inaction over the court and vowed to take "necessary steps" to ensure accountability.
Under foreign and local pressure to catch those behind the killing of at least 1,300 people, Kenya came up with a vague formula last week hinting at solutions through existing judicial systems and a truth and reconciliation body.
That fell short of international calls for a special tribunal, and brought closer the possibility of an investigation and trial by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The Hague-based body has pledged to take over the case if Nairobi fails to set up its own clear mechanism for justice.
"The United States is deeply concerned by the coalition government's decision that appears to indicate it will not pursue establishment of an independent Special Tribunal to hold accountable perpetrators of post-election violence," said a U.S. statement issued by its embassy in Nairobi.
"Merely expanding the role of the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission and establishing a mechanism within the existing judicial structure is not a credible approach in the eyes of the Kenyan people and the international community."
"CULTURE OF IMPUNITY"
While some see justice for the 2008 chaos as crucial to future stability in east Africa's largest economy -- which faces its next poll in 2012 -- others warn any judicial process could destabilize Kenya by stirring up old hatreds.
Washington, along with human rights groups, insists firm action is needed to prevent repeats and punish the guilty.
"Ensuring an independent, credible process for accountability for all forms of politically motivated violence, not to mention corruption and human rights abuses, is crucial to fighting the culture of impunity," it said.
"Establishment of an independent local Special Tribunal, with independent investigate powers, would clearly demonstrate seriousness that has not been evident to date."
The debate over the court has added further tensions to the shaky coalition of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, especially as senior figures including ministers are accused of being among those who fomented the violence.
Foreign donors, disillusioned Kenyans and local markets -- which bombed during last year's crisis and have been jittery over coalition divisions -- are following the issue closely.
"The United States will stand firmly behind the Kenyan people as they insist on full implementation of the reform agenda. We will take the necessary steps to hold accountable those who do not support the reform agenda or who support violence," the U.S. statement said. Continued...
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