Threat of post-poll violence high
Publish date: 07 August 2017
Issue Number: 737
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Kenyans again face the threat of violence as tomorrow’s presidential election looms, with many who survived the deadliest period in the East African country's history 10 years ago saying they still haven't found justice. A report on the News24 site notes that experts have warned that the government's failure to address old wounds risks passing them along for generations with the potential for cycles of violence. More than 1 000 people died and 600 000 were evicted from their homes after what international observers called a flawed presidential election in 2007. Both President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto faced charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court after being accused or orchestrating the violence, but the court dropped the charges and cited unprecedented witness interference and bribery. A government commission of inquiry found that deep-seated hatred over unresolved injustices and the belief that the court system was biased led to the violence. In response, says the report, the government committed to reforming the police and judiciary and adopting a new Constitution to check the President's powers. It also established a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to deal with historical injustices. Though some changes have been made, Kenya has not reformed the police force, whose officers were found by the government to have killed more than 400 people in the 2007 unrest, the report points out.
Fears of violence in the poll could partly be attributed to the collapse of the International Criminal Court’s case against Kenyatta and Ruto. David Ogutu, an opposition councillor candidate in Kibera, Nairobi, said during the elections in 2013 the case at The Hague for crimes against humanity for the 2007-2008 post-election violence against the two was still ongoing. 'People felt the only way justice could be found was at The Hague,' he said. Now, however, he said, the victims had lost hope for justice. 'When people are saying they want to pull out from the ICC, what are they telling us?' Kenya was one of the drivers of the campaign for AU member states to withdraw from the ICC, with South Africa being one of its chief allies in this campaign. George Morara, vice- chairperson of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, agreed that the ICC issue played a role in why people were fearing violence. 'The ICC case hanging over the head of some of the leading contenders in 2013 was a deterrent to an extent, although some of the candidates also used it as a bargaining chip to rally their base, so it was a double-edged sword,' he reportedly told News24.