Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ICC clears Ocampo to prosecute the 20 thug masterminds of Kenya's post-election violence

Kenya’s political risk profile may be downgraded in the coming months following the International Criminal Court’s decision to allow its prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to start investigations into the 2008 post-election violence.

The decision by two judges, and one dissenting, not only gives victims of the post-election violence a chance for justice, but brings Kenya’s politicians, businessmen and activists suspected to have funded and organised the mayhem closer to facing the international court.

The Court was satisfied that "...the information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed on Kenyan territory," using heavy reference to the Kenya National Human Rights Commission on the post-election violence and the Waki Commission report.

The decision will add on to the political temperature raised by the ongoing debate on the new Constitution.

The Court also pushed the period of investigation to 2005, a period that saw skirmishes in Mt. Elgon district when a ragtag Sabaot Land Defence army terrorised residents leading to the displacement of more than 60,000 people.

The ICC statement came as debate to amend the draft constitution was marked by bitter disagreements and walk-outs to force a lack of the statutory 145 members required to vote in any of the proposed changes, raising political tension in and around Parliament.

The Pre-Trial Chamber II ruling means that Ocampo will now start official investigations in Kenya, by gathering evidence and witnesses. It is also seen as an important step towards ending Kenya’s persistent culture of impunity blamed for the tribal and land clashes that have left thousands displaced and dead. "The ICC will do its part but the Kenyans will be in the lead," Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement on today, adding that there would be "no impunity for those most responsible. The ICC will work for and with the Kenyans," he said.

But the two developments will amplify the country’s political risks, which will have an impact on the pace and profitability of investments in the country.

Kenya currently has a relatively favourable rating of B on its ability to pay its debts and a "stable" forecast based on the ratings by Standard and Poor’s (S&P). Fitch, another rating agency rates Kenya at a higher level of B+.

The World Investment and Political Risk 2009 survey by Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, a World Bank agency that promotes foreign direct investment (FDI), shows that Kenya’s political risk profile is perceived as "very high" by foreign investors. Risk analysts say Kenya could have its sovereign credit rating downgraded unless the ruling coalition spoke in one voice.

Downgrading Kenya’s country risk -— that includes economic and political risks — means the country will find it difficult to raise capital from the international market including issuing of the planned sovereign bond, and will be required to pay higher interest rates for money it borrows from international market. Lower rating will also mean foreign investors will be discouraged from putting their money in the country. Insurers will also be required to pay higher reinsurance premiums, especially for political risk covers, a cost that could be passed on to consumers.

It will mean the country misses international financial support that is tied to good governance such the United States Millennium Challenge Account. According to a survey released by Synovate on Tuesday, 76 per cent of CEOs in Kenya view political instability as the biggest risk to businesses. According to Synovate chief executive, Mr George Waititu, the perceived political instability in Kenya is largely caused by the amount of noise in government and deep divisions in the cabinet that has prevented it from meeting regularly to chat the policy path for the country.

The opinion poll shows that perceived political risk in Kenya is on an upward trend, which according to analysts is a result of the inability of political leaders to address the items listed under Agenda four of the national dialogue and reconciliation, key among them the prosecution of suspected perpetrators of the post election violence and the constitution review.

In a court filing earlier in March, the prosecutor said that senior political and business leaders from Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) were “guided by political objectives to retain or gain power”. The filing included a confidential list of 20 names of those “who appear to bear the gravest responsibility” for the crimes.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo has in the past cited figures from Kenyan authorities that 1,220 people were killed, with hundreds of documented rapes and that more than 350,000 people were forcibly displaced in ethnic clashes after the disputed presidential election in December 2007.

The International Criminal Court, established in 2002, is the world’s first permanent court set up to try individuals for genocide, war crimes and other major human rights violations.

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