The Star (Nairobi)

27 October 2012

Kenya: Anxiety As Bensouda Visits Post Election Violence Hotspots

Analysts say ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's meeting with the 2007/2008 post-election violence victims brought home the reality that politics had ... ( Resource: Kenyan Politics Tied to Election Violence Trial - Analysts

International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda made an extensive tour of the 2007/08 post-election violence hot spots in Eldoret where she faced a barrage of questions and demands from survivors.

Many of those she met questioned the impartiality of the court, claiming it was being influenced. Security was tightened and anxiety was high as Bensouda visited the Kiambaa KAG Church, Rurigi area in Burnt Forest and later held a public forum at Sirikwa Hotel in Eldoret town.

At one point, there was tension at the hotel and hundreds of members of the public demanded she addresses them or they storm the venue of the meeting.

Bensouda accepted to address the crowd and there were tense moments as the crowd heckled after she indicated she would not have time to talk to everyone.

"I want you to know that I am not here for investigations. I want to hear your views on the ICC process but I will not be able to talk to everyone," said Bensouda, who remained calm even as the crowd seemed to get agitated.

Some of the victims who met with Bensouda opposed charges against four suspects at The Hague and questioned why former chairman of the defunct Electoral Commission Samwel Kivuitu, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga were not held responsible for the chaos.

Sheilla Jepkosgey wept as she narrated how all communities suffered during the violence and denied claims that the chaos had been planned.

"We all suffered as communities and we want justice. The much I know is that the violence started because of the election results. The suspects taken to The Hague were not involved in planning the violence," said Jepkosgei.

She defended Eldoret North MP William Ruto saying he was not involved in the alleged planning of the chaos. "In fact Prime Minister Raila Odinga should be the one defending Ruto now because its Ruto who busy that time in Nairobi on behalf of ODM and he had no time to plan anything like chaos", said Jepkosgei.She said the violence broke out because of flawed election results.

Many of the victims and those who spoke during the meetings with Bensouda accused her predecessor Louis Moreno Ocampo of failing to properly investigate the chaos.

At the Kiambaa KAG Church in Edoret Bensouda sought to know the exact number of people who were killed in the church on January 1st 2008 during the post election violence.

Bensouda met with some of the survivors in the incident and said there were conflicting reports on the exact number of people who died during the incident which she described as the worst during the violence. Bensouda said the ICC was interested in seeking justice for the victims.

A representative for the victims of the incident Joseph Githuku briefed Bensouda on the incident and said 36 people were buried at the church a year after the violence.

"Its good that you cam so that you know that the violence was real", said Githuka. At most of the venues Bensouda insisted that the court was not driven by political interests of any group or state.

"As the prosecutor I can not be dictated by anyone or any state. The ICC makes decisions based on evidence. We do not not target any community, government but we deal with individuals who commit serious crime", said Bensouda.

She said the Kenya government has adequate time to set up a local tribunal to deal with the PEV cases but since that was impossible, the ICC had to take over because the country is a signatory to the Rome Statute.

"What that means is that impunity is longer acceptable. If the government can not deal with such cases, the ICC has to take over", she said. Different groups presented memorandums to Bensouda but most of the issues they raised were on matters touching on the fate of those who suffered or lost property during the violence. It was the last day of Bensouda's visit as she ended a week long visit to the country.

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