Monday, February 28, 2011

ICC: State responds to civil society with two-million signature drive

By CYRUS OMBATIA competition has broken out between Government and civil society groups opposed to the deferral of International Criminal Court cases.
Government functionaries have launched a bid to collect two million signatures from Kenyans to prove that the deferral bid has popular support.
The exercise in which chiefs and councillors are being used to collect the signatures is a direct response to civil society groups that announced they would collect a million signatures to oppose the deferral drive.
On Sunday, Internal Security PS Francis Kimemia and Assistant Minister Orwa Ojode denied knowledge of the briefs given to their officers, but chiefs’ who spoke to The Standard on condition of anonymity said they were under instructions to deliver two million signatures of people opposed to the ICC case proceeding at The Hague.
Kimemia said if the forms were from his office, they would have had a forwarding letter from him.
"We cannot break the law on such issues. If this office has to be involved there must be a forwarding letter to show it is legal," he said.
He said some non-Governmental Organisations have been pushing for and against ICC involvement, but did not explain who was behind the two million-signatures drive involving Government officials.
"Of course there are busybodies all over, but our stand is very clear on that. We have to follow the law," he said
Ojode on his part denied knowledge of the exercise even though chiefs come directly under him.
"There could be people pushing it from this office but I personally do not know of the same. Many things happen in the Government," he said.
Disputed claims
But as the officials denied knowledge of the fresh bid by Government to disprove the claims by NGOs that the deferral bid is unpopular, politicians have hit the ground to woo Kenyans to volunteer to sign the forms.
On Sunday, Special Programmes Minister Esther Murugi called on Kenyans to volunteer to give their signatures to support local mechanisms to deal with the post-election crisis.
"We do not want to go to The Hague. We want the suspects to be tried in Kenya, since we have realised that some of them were just framed after they helped evacuate victims from troubled zones," she said at a rally in Nyeri, where Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta was present. Uhuru is one of the personalities ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo wants tried for crimes against humanity.
She caused a stir when she claimed that women would hold demonstrations and undress to show solidarity with the suspects, as they did at Uhuru Park during the struggle for multi-party democracy.
In Rift Valley, home to four of the suspects, local politicians said they would raise five million signatures to prove that the NGOs were wrong. Those on Ocampo’s list who come from Rift Valley are Eldoret North MP William Ruto, Tinderet MP William Ruto and Radio presenter Joshua Sang. Former Police Commissioner Hussein Ali also comes from Eldoret area.
Konoin MP Julius Kones said they would collect five million signatures from supporters of the Ocampo Six to counter efforts of the civil society groups.
Kones, who heads the Rift Valley Parliamentary Group, also cautioned residents not to sign forms being circulated round the region to push for the trial of the six at The Hague.
"We have received some information that those going round to mobilise residents of Rift Valley to sign the petition are using the name of Ruto to hoodwink the locals into believing that they have the blessings of Ruto in pushing for the ICC process," Kones said.
A group calling itself Kenyans in Support of the ICC Process has been running advertisements in the dailies as part of their campaign to mobilise Kenyans to sign the petition in support of the ICC process by collecting one million signatures.
It has also emerged that the chiefs who were instructed to collect signatures are those who are viewed to be loyal.
The ICC process has led to a rift in Government with those loyal to President Kibaki supporting the deferral bid, while those loyal to Prime Minister Raila Odinga are opposed to it.
The bid to collect the two million signatures is part of efforts by the Kibaki side to sway international opinion for the deferral bid.
Already, Kenya has written to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to inform him of the wish to have the cases deferred to give time for Government to establish a local tribunal.
Earlier in the month, Kibaki summoned over 20 envoys representing Kenya in countries that are members of the UN Security Council to brief them on how to lobby support for the deferral bid.
ICC judges are this month due to rule on the application by Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo for the issuance of summons against the suspects who also include Head of the Civil Service Francis Muthaura for their alleged role in the violence.
Against the six
Forms that are supposed to be filled by the two million willing to see the case against the six deferred describes those signing as "Kenyans expressing their inalienable right to determining their destiny and deal with their internal affairs and agreeing that a local mechanism remains the best option for dealing with all matters related to the 2007/2008 post poll chaos".
The forms say that the victims of post poll violence will not get justice at the ICC, and that the process of reconciliation and healing can only be achieved through a local tribunal.
"We support Kenya’s case for a local tribunal since Kenya has or is in the process of putting in place a capable judiciary system and preserve Kenya’s sovereignty since it is not a failed state," adds the form for the councillors.
Informed sources within Government said senior officials at the Office of the President and Local Government drafted the forms.
Attorney-General Amos Wako is also understood to have said that trying to lobby the world on the ICC cases at this stage is a waste of time because it cannot be established whether there is any case since judges have not given their verdict.
Wako, according to sources, has maintained that he can get involved only if the judges confirm the cases.
Wako’s position has driven a wedge between him and the PNU side of Government. Some in PNU have already said that Wako should quit even though his term comes to end in August.
The developments emerged as President Kibaki gave instructions to Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka to travel to New York to hold a meeting with the UN boss before Kenya’s request comes up at the UN Security Council.
Kalonzo’s spokesman Kaplich Barsito said the VP might travel in a week’s time.
The talks between Kalonzo and Ban Ki-moon could feature the CommuniquÈ of the 17th Extra-Ordinary Session of the InterGovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Assembly of Heads of State that expressed concern the ICC process in Kenya "threatens the on-going national efforts in peace building, national reconciliation and political transition".
The agenda will also feature in discussions between the two on an aide memoire titled "Kenya’s Reform Agenda and Engagement with International Criminal Court (ICC)" which the Government had presented to the UN.
—Additional reports by Peter Mutai and Job Weru

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