June 11, 2009 / 10:27 AM / 10 years ago

Annan gives Kenya until August for violence court

NAIROBI, June 11 (Reuters) - The mediator of Kenya’s post-election crisis, Kofi Annan, said on Thursday the country’s leaders had until August to set up a local court for perpetrators of violence — or face international action.

The former U.N. boss has a sealed envelope holding the names of 10 top suspects for the chaos that killed more than 1,300 people, displaced 300,000 and paralysed key sectors of the region’s largest economy in early 2008.

Under the terms of an inquiry into the crisis, Annan is to hand that envelope to the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) if Nairobi fails to establish a special local court. Parliament has repeatedly dragged its feet over that.

"I’m in discussions with the two leaders ... and they told me they’re going to make a second attempt to get the tribunal established," Annan told BBC radio, referring to President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

"I’ve also made it clear that if it is not established within a reasonable period, which I would say (is) up to the end of August, I will have no option other than to hand the envelope over with the names to the ICC."

Annan brokered the coalition government between Kibaki and Odinga after the latter, who was the main opposition presidential candidate, said the election was stolen from him.

The issue of justice for the 2008 violence is among various problems straining the coalition. It has been dogged by squabbling and dragged on reforms, though it has held the peace after the worst blood-letting in Kenya since 1963 independence.

The 10 names in the envelope with Annan are believed to include some senior politicians and businessmen, including cabinet members, analysts and diplomats in Nairobi say.

Kenya’s political elite whipped voters up, along tribal lines, prior to the contentious December, 2007 vote.

While some legislators have blocked the local court out of self-interest, analysts say, others have opposed it on grounds it would be doomed to go the way of past inquiries in Kenya and fail to prosecute anyone.

Annan, however, said local justice would still be better.

"I think Kenya would be much better off with that trial taking place in their midst," he said.

"They are collectively and individually responsible and they should work with the speaker and their fellow parliamentarians to establish the court for the sake of justice. The victims deserve justice."

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