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Page last updated at 22:34 GMT, Thursday, 30 July 2009 23:34 UK

Kenya shuns special poll tribunal

By Will Ross
BBC News, Nairobi

Kenayn Prime Minister Raila Odinga (r) and President Mwai Kibaki (l) in Nairobi, 30 July 2009
The prime minister and president said the judiciary would be reformed

Kenya's cabinet has announced that it will not set up a special tribunal over last year's post-election violence, and will use local courts instead.

The prime minister said the judiciary, which is viewed by many as corrupt, will first be reformed.

Senior politicians are accused of playing a role in the violence and many fear they can influence the courts.

So the idea of referring the investigation to the International Criminal Court is a popular one.

After the cabinet stated that it was still determined to pursue the perpetrators of last year's post election violence, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the public had no confidence in the judiciary, so there would first need to be judicial reform.

He made it clear that - contrary to the recommendations of an inquiry into the violence - the Kenyan cabinet had decided against setting up a special local tribunal.

"The final goal is to try people through the Kenyan laws... through the normal courts, once the judiciary has been reformed," he told the BBC.

Minister thwarted

Asked whether such a reform would not take years, he replied that it could be undertaken "quickly".

But few Kenyans will believe that the words "judicial reform" and "quickly" belong in the same sentence.

The country has a history of impunity.

It will be of great concern to Kenyans and the international community that the cabinet has ruled out setting up a special tribunal that would have featured some international judges.

On the eve of the cabinet meeting Kenya's justice minister, Mutula Kilonzo, had told the BBC he was determined to put in place such a tribunal.

But his goal was clearly thwarted by cabinet colleagues, several of whom he said were running away from justice.

A number of Kenyan politicians have been accused of perpetrating last year's violence.

It is clear that some of them have been reluctant to pass a law that might result in their own prosecution.

There is still an option for the International Criminal Court to open investigations against key perpetrators.

But the cabinet's decision will do nothing to change the minds of those who believe Kenya's politicians are more concerned with covering their own backs than finding justice for the violence that brought the country to the brink of civil war.



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