|A divided Cabinet Thursday declined to give amnesty to thousands of youths arrested over post-election violence.
|A Cabinet meeting in session. Photo/FILE
Sources close to the meeting said debate on the matter split the second session of the Grand Coalition Cabinet down the middle.
The ministers agreed to immediately set up a commission to investigate the cause and the perpetrators of the violence.
Immediately after chairing the meeting at State House, Nairobi, President Kibaki appointed members of the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence that will be chaired by Appellate Judge Philip Waki.
Meanwhile, the fate of the youths linked to the violence was left in the hands of the police, who are still investigating some of the cases.
Over 1,200 people were killed in the violence that erupted after the disputed presidential election results were announced on December 30, last year.
Property worth billions of shillings was also destroyed in the mayhem that also displaced over 350,000 people.
Sources said Prime Minister, Raila Odinga and Agriculture minister, William Ruto had pushed for the release of thousands of youths arrested countrywide on grounds that the protests were political and the problem should be solved politically.
Sources said their position was strongly opposed by Internal Security minister, George Saitoti and Justice minister, Martha Karua who said the law should not be thrown out through the window simply because the youths in questions were advancing the cause of a political party.
According to the sources, tension was high because the ministers took strong positions.
It is understood that ministers allied to ODM had argued that for the country to heal from the wounds resulting from the violence over disputed presidential election results, the Government must begin to lead the way by pardoning the youths.
This could explain why the President named the commission of inquiry soon after the stormy session.
Said a statement by the Presidential Press Services: “President Kibaki, being of the opinion that it is in the public interest to do so, has appointed members of the Commission of Inquiry into the post-election violence following the December 2007 elections.”
Members of the commission are Mr Gavin Alistair McFayden, a former assistant police commissioner in New Zealand and a Congolese human rights lawyer Pascal Kambale.
Rank the offences
Mr George Kegoro of the International Commission of Jurists Kenya chapter will serve as the secretary to the commission while lawyer David Majanja will be its counsel.
The Cabinet also directed the police to move quickly and rank the offences allegedly committed by each of the youths in custody for scrutiny by the Waki commission.
Said the PPS brief on the Cabinet meeting: “The police should categorise in terms of the gravity (minor or major) the offences of all the cases of persons in custody, pending investigations for further consideration by the Cabinet;
“that the due process of law should be respected and that there should be total impartiality in regard to investigations and prosecutions.”
It is understood there had been complaints that the youths were being persecuted by the Government for the atrocities that were also committed by the police, and it was feared that the police would not be impartial in their investigations.
It was also argued that some of the youths were merely rounded up in the mayhem and placed in custody and should be released.
On another matter, the meeting vetoed the move by MPs to form a grand opposition in Parliament on the grounds that it was unconstitutional and went against the spirit of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act that created the coalition Government.
A group of MPs led by Budalang’i lawmaker, Ababu Namwamba and his Lugari counterpart, Mr Cyrus Jirongo, were behind the move to put in place a recognised Official Opposition to put the Government in check.
A motion seeking to create the opposition has already sailed through the House and a Bill is being prepared for presentation in Parliament.
The Government, however, is uncomfortable with the move, and has decided to veto it.
The PPS statement also said the Cabinet meeting gave the green light to the pact for the country to host the secretariat of the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade coordination mechanism.
The brigade is part of the African Union Standby Force, which is a component of the continental peace and security initiative.
The meeting also overruled an attempt to reclaim portfolios given to some ministries perceived to be more powerful than others.
A Cabinet minister who sought anonymity told the Nation: “We cannot allow underhand deals with some ministers who feel their ministries are empty.”
At the Ministry of Medical Services, there is pressure that health centres and dispensaries be managed by the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation.
In Education, it is felt that managing both primary and secondary education could be a heavy burden for one minister, but the minister retorted that since they were single ministries before, such claims would not hold.
According to one source, one minister warned that if portfolios were reviewed again, the grand coalition would be at risk of collapsing.
Ministries targeted for reduction of portfolio are Local Government, Education, Medical Services, Agriculture, Energy and Transport.