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KENYA PROSECUTE VIOLENCE SUSPECTS SAY KIBAKI

Amnesty row rages

Story by LUCAS BARASA
Publication Date: 6/2/2008

President Kibaki Sunday ruled out any possibility of the Government giving youths involved in post-election violence blanket amnesty.

President Kibaki acknowledges greetings from the public before presiding over the 45th Madaraka Day celebrations at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi on Sunday. He said Kenyans had made great strides in the war against poverty, illiteracy and diseases. Photo/STEPHEN MUDIARI

Speaking for the first time on the issue that has threatened to split the 45-day-old grand coalition Government, President Kibaki said all cases would be investigated and those found guilty punished.

The President’s stand attracted diverse views from politicians, some who insisted that the youths should be freed as a way of healing and reconciling the country.

Addressing the Madaraka Day celebrations, to mark 45 years of Kenya’s self-rule, the President was clear that perpetrators of post-election violence must face the law, taking the debate over calls for amnesty to another level.

Solve problem

The President spoke minutes after Prime Minister Raila Odinga had given hope that amnesty was being considered and that the matter would  be sorted out in due course.

“We will solve the problem of the youths who were arrested,” Mr Odinga said.

The President, however, stamped his authority on the matter in his official speech and off the cuff explanations in Kiswahili saying “haitawezakana kuhurumia watu wa fitina na hawataweza kuenda mbali na uchochezi’’ (there will be no mercy for people thriving on malice and propaganda against fellow Kenyans).

The President said no suspect of the violence, which left more than 1,200 people killed and 350,000 displaced from their homes and work places, would be released.

“No normal person will encourage that,” said the Head of State.

The violence was sparked by the announcement of presidential election result on December 30, last year.

President Kibaki said once investigations were completed, those found to be innocent would be released without undue delay.

“But those who committed murder of innocent citizens, engaged in reckless destruction of property or rape, should not expect any mercy,” he said.

Complete work

The President told thousands of people who attended the celebrations that the recurrence of politically-instigated violence, before or after general elections “is a situation we must not tolerate in modern Kenya.”

“We should not spare them or those who recruit the gangs that cause mayhem,” the President said.

His Government, he said, was implementing measures to promote national reconciliation, healing and cohesion.

The findings of the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence, which is expected to complete its work within three months, together with those from the Commission on the Review of the Electoral Process, would be strengthened by the Truth, Justice, Reconciliation Commission, whose Bill has been published, he said.

“We are going to great lengths to establish these commissions so that, as a Government and as a country, we can deal decisively with the problems posed by ethnicity and impunity. We are determined to restore harmony among our people and create an environment for national cohesion to take root,” he said.

He envisaged a nation which reaches out to those who are weak and disadvantaged, and one where all citizens are provided with an enabling environment to realise their full potential.

The President’s position is similar to that of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua, who is among key government leaders opposed to issuance of blanket amnesty to post-election violence suspects.

Commenting on the amnesty issue after the President’s speech Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister, Musalia Mudavadi said: “There’s a tough agenda ahead”.

Culture and National Heritage minister, William ole Ntimama said thousands of innocent youths were languishing in jails and should be released.

But Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi and Finance’s Amos Kimunya said the law must take its course.

“The message is now very clear. Even in cases of war or armed conflict, rape, murder and crimes against humanity are not pardoned,” he said.

Medical Services minister, Anyang’ Nyong’o added that what the President had said was what the Cabinet had decided.

Prof Nyong’o said the Cabinet directed the attorney-general to investigate all the cases, find those to go to court and minor ones, like those who participated in demonstrations, released.

“There’s no need to keep minor offenders behind bars,” Prof Nyong’o said.

National Assembly Speaker, Kenneth Marende said the law must be followed to discourage the culture of impunity.

The Government-owned Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has said only minor offenders should benefit after applying and naming their financiers and planners of the violence.

According to police, 12,000 post-election violence cases were reported during the chaos, 4,690 against petty offenders had been dealt with, while 103 serious and capital offences, involving 137 suspects in remand, are in courts.

Some 260 serious and capital offences, for which 550 suspects are being sought, are under investigation.

Seven thousand and six hundred cases, mainly petty, but including the 260, are still under investigation.

On Saturday Police Commissioner Maj Gen Hussein Ali that police do not know of any youths in custody.

“We are talking about criminals”, he said in apparent reply to the politicians who have been pushing for the release of the suspects.

Mr Odinga has been in the forefront in championing for the release of youths arrested, saying they were fighting for democracy.

Sunday, he said the post-election violence shook Kenya’s foundation, Kenyans fought and killed each and police shot people.

“That is why we sat down and solved the problem. We shook hands and formed a grand coalition government.

“We should now forget the past and focus on future. We should bury tribalism and all 42 tribes co-exist as one,” Mr Odinga said.

The Prime Minister said the grand coalition Cabinet was united and there was only “one president who is Mwai Kibaki and one Prime Minister, Raila Odinga”.

President Kibaki said the post-election violence was resolved “because, as a people and in particular the leaders, we recognised that our country is greater and more important than any individual’’.

The best interest

He was happy that the grand coalition  was working well and that its first business has been harmonisation of PNU, ODM and ODM-Kenya manifestos, as well as the Vision 2030.

He said the Government was committed to finalising the constitutional review in a year, and that the grand coalition “gives us the best opportunity to resolve the outstanding issues in the best interest of the people of this country.”

The President stated his Government’s achievements, plans for an even higher economic growth, increased revenues, jobs for the youth, expanded health services, education, water, security, housing, road construction and rural electrification.

He said 178,000 of internally displaced persons have been resettled and that only 40,000 were still in camps.

The President announced plans to increase funding for expansion of Strategic Grain Reserve from four million bags to eight million and import cheaper fertiliser through National Cereals and Produce Board.

He said the Ministry of Nairobi Metropolitan Development would undertake large-scale infrastructure projects and enforce planning and zoning regulations to speed up transformation of the city into a vibrant world class metropolis.

In reference to Lands minister, James Orengo’s order on land, President Kibaki assured those holding leaseholds or letters of allotment that they should not panic as they had a chance to renew them.

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About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.

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