NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya’s post-election crisis mediator Kofi Annan said on Thursday he had handed a sealed envelope with the names of top suspects for the violence to the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor.
The move heightens pressure on Kenya’s shaky coalition government to establish quickly a local court or face international justice for the worst bloodletting in the east African nation’s post-independence history.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Annan said.
Punishing culprits is a crucial step to ensuring stability in the nation of 35 million that is the region’s economic powerhouse and faces its next poll in 2012, analysts say.
“The people of Kenya want to see concrete progress on impunity. Without such progress, the reconciliation between ethnic groups and the long-term stability of Kenya is in jeopardy,” Annan added in his statement.
His list of at least 10 alleged masterminds of the violence -- in which at least 1,300 people died and 300,000 were uprooted -- names prominent politicians and businessmen, probably including two ministers, local political sources say.
Two months of violence exploded after the December 27, 2007 vote, following a campaign in which politicians openly whipped up supporters along tribal lines, and gangs stocked weapons in anticipation of fighting to come.
Then opposition leader Raila Odinga accused President Mwai Kibaki of stealing the vote. With gangs facing off with machetes and clubs, and security forces opening fire on the streets, Annan brokered a power-sharing pact that eventually ended the violence and made Odinga prime minister.
A government-ordered inquiry, the Waki Commission, had mandated Annan to hand over the envelope, with names of at least 10 alleged masterminds, if no local court was established.
Kenyan officials told the ICC last week that they would submit a plan for a local court by September, so Annan’s move will ramp up the pressure for that to happen.
NAMES WITH PROSECUTOR
A statement from Annan in Geneva said he had informed both Kibaki and Odinga that the envelope’s contents had been transmitted to ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
The former U.N. boss “welcomed the government of Kenya’s renewed efforts to implement the recommendations of the Waki Commission and to establish a Special Tribunal,” it said.
“Any judicial mechanism adopted to bring the perpetrators of the post-election violence to justice must meet international legal standards and be broadly debated with all sectors of the Kenyan society in order to bring credibility to the process.”
Kenya’s parliament has blocked previous attempts by Kibaki and Odinga to create a local court.
While some legislators opposed the court out of self-interest, analysts say, others did so on grounds it would be doomed to go the way of past inquiries in Kenya and fail to prosecute anyone.
The ICC’s Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters this week it may take Kenya about a year to establish a tribunal if it agrees to do so in principle. “If Kenya cannot do it, I will do it. There will be no impunity,” he said.
The issue of justice for the 2008 violence is among various problems straining the Kibaki-Odinga coalition.
While both men support a local court, many of their officials and supporters do not, arguing it could be used for political vendetta rather than genuine justice.
The coalition has managed to hold the peace, but has been dogged by squabbling and dragged on political reforms.
Editing by Wangui Kanina
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