Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Explain your role in the alleged planning of violence at State House," Ngilu dares Kibaki

Exactly a week after the Waki Report was released, all those mentioned in connection with the post-election violence were frantic in attempts to absolve themselves and their institutions of blame. From the top office in the land, to the security forces and politicians, they came out — guns blazing — to deny allegations of complicity in the events of Kenya’s darkest January ever. And the big question on the lips of Kenyans is: Who is fooling whom?

As this unfolded, Parliament united to pass a crucial Bill that would pave the way for the formation of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to, among other things, recommend amnesty only in cases where the victims of such abuses approve.

And in an indication of how the charges could spiral, a tough-talking Cabinet minister Charity Ngilu took on President Kibaki head-on, challenging him to explain the role he played in the alleged planning of violence at State House. "If it is true a group of people planned violence at State House, then those people must be taken to court for trial… He (Kibaki) would help Kenyans by picking out the people who were at the said meeting so that they are tried," said Ngilu in reference to the Waki Commission’s report that a meeting was held at State House to plan revenge attacks.

Calling for the full implementation of the Kriegler and Waki reports, Ngilu laid the blame squarely at the door of President Kibaki. "The violence was a reaction to the anger of a flawed election in which Kibaki was a striker, a goalkeeper, a referee and a linesman. It could not be fair in any way. He failed where former President Moi succeeded." She was referring to the unilateral appointment of "interested persons" to the Electoral Commission of Kenya by President Kibaki, in total disregard of the Inter-Party Parliamentary Group (IPPG) rules endorsed by then President Moi in 1997. "Why should we have youths in jail yet their masters are holding big offices in Government? Let us implement the two reports to the letter," she said. "Kibaki failed where former President Moi succeeded. We would not be debating Waki and Kriegler reports if he respected the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group agreements."

But Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Ng'ang'a Mutua strongly denied the claims, further casting aspersions on the whole report. "The President has never at any time held meetings with any person, to plan violence, at State House or anywhere else in the world. This wild allegation is being repeated so as to paint a perception that the President and State House were involved in post election violence," said Mutua during his weekly press briefing.

Elsewhere, different groups outdid themselves in proposing what they thought would serve justice to their constituencies. The Police force called a press conference to defend themselves against negligence and failure to implement recommendations by the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS). "The police and NSIS have all along been working well together and there is no rift," said Spokesman Eric Kiraithe. It was the second time in as many weeks that the police were defending themselves against their role in the post-election violence as chronicled by the Justice Philip Waki-led commission. Last week, Police Commissioner Hussein Ali ruled that the commission had been very harsh on the police.

And political parties went into overdrive, with the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) setting next Tuesday as the date for its MPs to meet and take a common position on the Waki and Kriegler reports, according to Secretary-General Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o. "Many of us want the implementation of the Waki Report and we would prefer a Kenyan tribunal to the International Crimes Court…that is my personal opinion," party Chief Whip Mr Jakoyo Midiwo. Midiwo demanded that the police — who killed over 400 people in the post-election violence — be held to account and the force reformed. "In Nyanza and Western provinces, between 70-90 per cent of those who died were killed by police. Families of victims want to know the truth," Midiwo said.

And President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) said it wanted the Waki Report implemented "fully". Secretary-General George Nyamweya said President Kibaki had indicated the report would be implemented and that the position had not changed. Government Whip George Thuo said the names of the individuals contained in the secret envelope should be made public, as this was creating anxiety. Thuo said Parliament would eventually have the last word on whether the tribunal proposed by Waki would be set up or not. "Parliament will have to make a law to implement these recommendations. We are waiting for it (Waki report) here and you will hear our opinions,’’ said Thuo.

The Juja legislator took issue with Justice Waki, saying he had undermined Kenya’s sovereignty and the authority of the President by handing over the secret envelope to a non-Kenyan (Dr Kofi Annan). Trade Assistant Minister Omingo Magara opposed calls for amnesty, saying it would breed impunity. He, however, backed the creation of a TJRC to allow people to seek forgiveness, as did Tourism minister Najib Balala.

In the TJRC Bill passed by Parliament on Thursday, the proposed commission will mirror the Rwandese Gacaca courts that allow offenders to confess publicly and await the victims’ verdict. Six members will be Kenyans, while the three commissioners will be non-citizens. The Bill now moves to the Attorney-General for fine-tuning before being presented to President Kibaki for assent.

On Thursday, Industrialisation Minister Henry Kosgei said no one should face a tribunal unless sufficient evidence was adduced. "We must ensure we are a country where the rule of law and justice prevails. We do not want to see people asked to prove themselves based on hearsay," he added. Nairobi Metropolitan Development minister Mutula Kilonzo said: "Waki was not a court of law as some are indicating. He was given a mandate to investigate the causes of violence and who were the prime drivers of the violence."

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