A Tribunal for Kenya: the Waki Commission Report
The Waki commission, charged with the task of investigating post-election violence in the aftermath of the Kenyan elections last December, has called for a special tribunal to try various perpetrators. The Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence, headed by Justice Philip Waki, released its findings on October 15 after a three month investigation. It recommended that a special tribunal be created to "seek accountability against personas bearing the greatest responsibility for crimes, particularly crimes against humanity, relating to the 2007 General Elections in Kenya."
At first glance, one is struck by a gaping omission by the Waki inquiry. Political violence, as pointed out by Human Rights Watch, has plagued the Mt. Elgon district in Kenya's Western Province for two years. Mt. Elgon remains a flashpoint of political angst and acrimony. Avoid that, it would seem, at your peril. This is something the authors of the Waki report do.
Notwithstanding that, the findings of the report make essential, if dire reading. In the first place, the violence that took place last year was the result of a pattern dating back to the last decade. The tribal explosion in the Tinderet division of Nandi District on October 29, 1991 is the first that comes to mind. 1997 was another bad year for tribal clashes, notably in the Rift Valley.
All sides, the report found, had fanned the dispute, funding and indulging in attacks on supporters of their opponents with impunity. This is a pattern the authors of the report are keen to halt through a legal process. A police force criticised by various human rights organizations was also condemned for its use of excessive force against protesters.
In the absence of a special tribunal, the Waki commission has recommended that a sealed list of suspects be turned over to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. While that is a measure of last resort, it would also be a measure of minimal relevance to the complex political landscape of Kenya. The remedial measures of justice should start at home - local and national tribunals are often more desirable than international ones, though an international body may be needed in extreme cases.
Reaction varied, but Nairobi's The Nation breathed a sigh of relief, claiming that Kenya had been offered "a last chance to liberate itself from the slavery of politically-instigated barbarity". Kenya's Daily Nation noted the necessity of a "police shake-up," and overall of the entire system of law enforcement.
The debate may well be had, and the recipient of this report, President Mwai Kibaki, will do well to heed its recommendations. Grievances must be sorted; crimes punished. Georgette Gagno, Africa's director at Human Rights Watch has warned against ignoring the Waki recommendations. "It is Kenyans who will pay the price of future violence if politicians allow this important report to become just another unheeded warning." The unheeded warning may be the epitaph of an entire political process.
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