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Archive for August, 2009

Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) invites you to read six new essays for analysis from commentators and scholars of Kenya, transitional justice, and violence.

The highlight from the recent contributions comes from Prof. Yash Ghai, the former Chair of the Kenya National Constitutional Conference and a former Special Representative for the UN Secretary General. Prof. Ghai argues that, although many blame the lack of a new constitution for Kenya’s current troubles, a robust constitutional text is not a sufficient guarantee against political violence. The absence of ethical and moral standards in politics means that even the most robust constitutional text will ‘not make a difference’, until Kenyans themselves imbue governing institutions with the appropriate values and principles. Another important contribution comes from Chidi Odinkalu of the Open Society Justice Initiative. Responding to the broader controversy about the ICC’s role in Africa, Odinkalu observes that the debate on international criminal trials in the African context has degenerated to a contest between ‘supposed imperialists and alleged impunity apologists’, neglecting important political concerns. He concludes with a number of suggestions on how to constructively move forward.

Other recent contributions focus on transitional justice in Kenya: Godfrey Musila’s essay explains how a power struggle within Kenya’s governing coalition has polarized and ethnicized  the debate on justice, resulting in an incoherent transitional justice agenda; Chris Huggins makes a case for the centrality of land reform in the economic mandate of Kenya’s Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC); Charlie Khamala describes recent efforts by the Law Society of Kenya to strengthen the Kenyan judiciary; and Ndung’u Wainaina and Pamela Chepng’etich advocate for a Special Tribunal in Kenya.

You can also read and comment on the first round of essays: Dr. Daniel Branch asserts that blaming elites for Kenyan violence ignores a bigger problem of normalized violence; Daniel Waweru argues why the  majimboist strand of the 2008 violence makes reform and accountability incompatible; Dr. Gabrielle Lynch lists a number of policy priorities to complement the fight against impunity; Dr. Tim Murithi explains why former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan handed over to the ICC the names of those suspected of the violence; Dr Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg links forcible male circumcision during the violence to the feminization of ethnicity; and  Susule Musungu explains why scenario-building exercises are important in allowing Kenyans to move forward.

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New York Times, August 6 2009

NAIROBI, Kenya — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton toughened her message to Kenya on Thursday, saying that if the Kenyan government refused to set up a tribunal to prosecute the perpetrators of last year’s election-driven bloodshed, the International Criminal Court at the Hague would get involved.

“I have urged that the Kenyan government find the way forward themselves,” she said, “But if not, then the names turned over to the I.C.C. will be opened, and an investigation will begin.”

She was referring to a list of prime suspects that the former United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, handed to the International Criminal Court in a sealed envelope in July. The court itself has also recently threatened to intervene if Kenyan leaders decide to continue the country’s stubborn history of impunity.

The American government and Kenyan human rights groups have been pressing Kenya’s leaders to establish a local tribunal, saying it will be far better for Kenya to handle these issues at home. But one glaring problem is that several of the top suspects are widely believed to be high-ranking ministers who have blocked any effort that might lead to their own prosecution.

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Kenya’s Position on the Tribunal:

Reuters

BBC

Telegraph

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By Delia Robertson, Johannesburg 15 July 2009-VOA News

Prominent South African individuals and civil society groups have urged President Jacob Zuma to publicly state that he respects the country’s constitution and treaty obligations. The call follows an African Union decision not to honor the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for Sudan President Omar al-Bashir.

The call on President Zuma comes from 17 of the country’s prominent civil society groups, including the constitutionally mandated Human Rights Commission. Individuals supporting the call include Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu and Richard Goldstone, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

In a statement, the organizations and individuals said the decision by the African Union to withhold cooperation from the ICC with respect to the warrant for Mr. al-Bashir represents the most serious challenge to the struggle against impunity and lawlessness on the African continent.

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BBC Thursday July 16 09

Mr Bashir, wanted on an international arrest warrant for war crimes, had been invited to a development summit.

But a Ugandan minister’s suggestion he could be arrested, followed by a retraction, made the trip less likely. Mr Bashir has managed to visit several African countries despite the warrant for his arrest, issued in March.

But unlike those countries, Uganda is a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which issued the warrant for Mr Bashir’s arrest. Prosecutors accuse him of organising attacks on civilians in the Darfur region of Sudan.

By GODFREY OLUKYA – Jul 13, 2009

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Uganda said Monday it would arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir if he enters the country, an unusual stance after a summit of African leaders denounced the international arrest warrant against al-Bashir.

Henry Oryem Okello, Uganda’s minister for international affairs, spoke after meeting with the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, in Kampala.

Police “will ensure that he is arrested” if al-Bashir arrives, Okello said.

Ocampo added: “It is a legal obligation for Uganda to arrest Bashir if he comes to Uganda.”

Earlier this month at an African Union summit, Africa’s leaders criticized the International Criminal Court and refused to extradite al-Bashir, who has been indicted for crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Sudan welcomed the move, and other Africans said it was a signal that the West should not impose its ways on Africa. But several African leaders appeared to strongly disagree with the AU statement, and Benin Foreign Minister Jean-Marie Ehouzou said Sudan’s neighbor and antagonist, Chad, objected to the wording.

Heads of state at AU summits reach decisions by consensus behind closed doors, not from a vote, and it was not clear how the measure was approved.

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