Bureau Chief, East Africa, Nairobi
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May 24, 2010

Ethiopia’s Meles expected to win election

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s electoral board will unveil the provisional result on Monday of a national election that is expected to extend Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s time in office to nearly 25 years.

Political analysts say a convincing win for his ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) will give the former rebel leader the chance to accelerate development in Washington’s main regional ally and improve its democratic record before Meles quits as planned in 2015.

May 23, 2010

Ethiopians vote in test of democracy

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopians voted on Sunday in national elections that are expected to return long-serving Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to power in the first ballot since a disputed poll in 2005 turned violent.

The opposition admits it has little chance of victory but says that is because the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has tightened its grip on power and routinely intimidates and jails its critics.

May 12, 2010

ICC prosecutor targets up to six Kenyans

NAIROBI, May 12 (Reuters) – The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor will seek arrest warrants by the end of the year for up to six Kenyans from both sides of the election violence that killed 1,300 people in 2008.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters during a five-day visit to Kenya that although there was evidence against many more people, he could only prosecute the two to three most responsible from both sides and would leave others for local courts.

"The plan is to present the two cases with six people before the end of the year and then we hope to have the hearings in 2011," he said in an interview. "We will select the worst incidents … There are more persons responsible, yes, I’ve got evidence against 20 more, yes, but I will select two or three."

The violence erupted after the opposition and the president’s party both claimed victory in a December 2007 poll. The ICC’s formal investigation began in March 2009.

The Rift Valley was the epicentre of the bloodletting and essentially pitted Kalenjin supporters of now Prime Minister Raila Odinga against Kikuyu backers of incumbent President Mwai Kibaki, who was eventually declared the winner.

Bringing those most responsible for the violence to justice quickly is seen by many Kenyans and crisis mediator Kofi Annan as key to avoiding a repeat at the next elections due in 2012 in east Africa’s biggest economy. Foreign donors and local markets are also closely watching the issue.

"If we are not doing justice in this case there will be chaos and more chaos and more violence," Moreno-Ocampo said.

A major fear among Kenyans is that if senior figures from only one side were targeted there would be more violence when the ICC names its chief suspects later this year.



BOTH SIDES RESPONSIBLE

But the prosecutor said both sides were in his sights. The security forces were responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial killings and Moreno-Ocampo said some of their crimes were committed as part of those by one of the political factions.

"We found that some of the allegations against the police form a pattern that could be connected with one of the cases," he said. "We can associate some of the police activities with some of the organisations who committed the crimes."

He would not say whether Kibaki and Odinga, who are now the leaders of the fragile coalition formed after the violence, could or could not be considered suspects. He said he did not know yet who would be charged.

"We will select the worst incidents, we will try to follow who committed them and we will decide according to the evidence who the parties will be," he said.

Moreno-Ocampo said it was not his responsibility to try and avoid further political upheaval and that elections would dictate political responsibility.

"I am following the evidence. I present criminal investigations, not political analysis," he said. "My only job is to end impunity for past crimes and prevent future crimes."

Moreno-Ocampo’s most high-profile target so far is Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been charged by the ICC on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict.

The arrest warrant for Bashir by the ICC, set up in 2002 as the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal, was the first ever issued for a sitting head of state.

The prosecutor said the fact Bashir was re-elected in March changed nothing, saying Adolf Hitler would no doubt have won if a poll had been held in Germany in 1942. But he said it might now take longer to bring Bashir to justice.

"Normally, heads of state are arrested after they are demoted," he said. "I hope he is demoted tomorrow." (Editing by Reed Stevenson)




May 6, 2010

African, Chinese interests in step: Meles

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – China’s interest in investing in Africa makes sense for both partners and should transform economies long reliant on commodity exports, Ethiopia’s prime minister said Thursday.

China pledged last year to give Africa $10 billion in concessional loans over the next three years and it is plowing money into developing infrastructure in many nations on the world’s poorest continent.

Feb 26, 2010

Kenyan PM more trusted than president in poll

NAIROBI, Feb 26 (Reuters) – Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s failed attempt to suspend two ministers linked to corruption investigations appears to be winning him favour with voters, a new opinion poll showed.

The poll by Nairobi-based Strategic Research Limited, published in newspapers on Friday, said 55 percent of Kenyans trust Odinga to lead the fight against graft, followed by President Mwai Kibaki on just 14 percent and trailing in all eight provinces of the country.

Odinga created a storm in the fragile coalition government earlier this month by ordering the suspension of two ministers to allow investigations into major scandals over maize sales and the diversion of funds meant for schools.

Hours later, Kibaki revoked the move saying the prime minister did not have the authority to suspend ministers, provoking a rift that sent the Kenyan shilling to an eight-month low against the dollar.

Odinga and Kibaki were forced into a unity government in 2008 following post-election violence that killed some 1,300 people after Odinga said he had been cheated of the presidency by the incumbent Kibaki.

But the coalition has struggled to make substantial progress on reforms, or tackling corruption, due to persistent bickering between the camps that has disillusioned many Kenyans and made the government deeply unpopular.



FIRE AND PROSECUTE

Rampant graft has dogged Kenya for decades and the growing frustration among people living in a country ranked as the most corrupt in east Africa was evident in the poll.

Asked what was the most important issue facing east Africa’s biggest economy, corruption came first with 38 percent, followed by political instability on 20 percent.

Seventy percent said Odinga was right to suspend the two ministers while 75 percent said Kibaki was wrong to reinstate them. An overwhelming 82 percent said ministers and officials accused of corruption should be fired and prosecuted — and six percent said they should be executed.

The poll also showed how fed up most Kenyans are with the performance of the government, with 61 percent fearing the rifts could derail a new constitution seen as crucial for avoiding more violence at the next election in 2012.

Only 17 percent said they were satisfied with the power sharing arrangements and one of the main gripes was that there seemed to be no rapport between Odinga and Kibaki.

The poll was conducted with 1,600 Kenyan adults in face-to-face interviews on Feb 18-19, the week after the row about the ministers. The error margin was 1.79 percent.

(Editing by Daniel Wallis and Michael Roddy)




Nov 25, 2009

Freed journalist feared being sold on in Somalia

NAIROBI (Reuters) – An Australian freelance journalist kidnapped in Somalia in August last year feared he would be handed over to hardline rebels when he was bundled into a car Wednesday night.

Instead, photojournalist Nigel Brennan and Canadian freelance reporter Amanda Lindhout were driven to a hotel in Mogadishu and released — ending their 15 month ordeal.

Nov 16, 2009

U.S. demands Kenya deliver Rwanda genocide suspect

NAIROBI (Reuters) – The United States wants Kenya to hand over a Rwanda genocide suspect it believes the east African nation has been harboring for years, President Barack Obama’s war crimes envoy said on Monday.

Stephen Rapp, U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, said the fact Kenya had not delivered the suspect to the Rwanda war crimes tribunal was part and parcel of the impunity prevalent in east Africa’s biggest economy.

Nov 16, 2009

U.S. to attend Hague court meeting as observer

NAIROBI (Reuters) – The United States will attend an International Criminal Court (ICC) meeting this week as an observer for the first time since the Hague court was set up in 2002, President Barack Obama’s war crimes envoy said Monday.

Stephen Rapp, U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, said Washington wanted to engage more with the world’s first permanent war crimes court — even though any debate about the United States joining the court could be many years away.

Nov 7, 2009

ICC’s Ocampo says has strong cases in Kenya

NAIROBI, Nov 7 (Reuters) – The International Criminal Court prosecutor believes he has a strong case against a few people for crimes committed during Kenya’s post-election violence and he will move fast to avoid a repeat at the 2012 election.

Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told a news conference on Saturday there was also a chance any trial could take place in Kenya, or at the court in Arusha in Tanzania where suspects from Rwanda’s 1994 genocide have been prosecuted.

"We have so many reports saying the same, I think I have a strong case," Moreno-Ocampo said told a news conference.

"Probably here will be two or three different cases, because there are different groups who committed crimes and we will identify the most responsible for each group."

Ethnic clashes after a disputed presidential election killed at least 1,300 people and uprooted more than 300,000, shattering Kenya’s image as a stable, regional economic powerhouse.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo met President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Thursday and told them he would request the green light for an investigation in December from the ICC’s pre-trial judges. [ID:nL5583308]

He said his decision to proceed unilaterally was because the Kenyan leaders had decided against referring the case themselves to The Hague, but they had promised to cooperate.



SPEED IMPORTANT

During a visit to Kenya in October, crisis mediator Kofi Annan warned that unless the architects of the killings were brought to book, there was a serious risk violence would erupt again at the next presidential election in 2012.

In July, he gave Moreno-Ocampo a list of the top suspects identified in a report by a Kenyan judge. Political sources say it includes cabinet ministers, parliamentarians and businessmen.

"My mandate is to end impunity of the most serious crimes. I will do that," said Moreno-Ocampo. "Everybody is worried about the next election in Kenya in 2012. That’s why I understand the importance of speed."

He said that assuming he gets the go-ahead from the ICC pre-trial judges to proceed in December, the investigation should be completed during 2010 and the suspects defined.

"And that will clean the situation, (so) that you can have peaceful election."

The 2002 Rome Treaty established the ICC, the world’s first permanent court set up to try individuals for genocide, war crimes and other major human rights violations.

The prosecutor said in other cases he had undertaken outside Kenya, the people charged by the ICC were those deemed to be the leaders of militias responsible for carrying out serious crimes.

He said that if Kenya investigated the same people for the same crimes as the ICC, he could defer to a tribunal there, but it would be the ICC judges who would decide whether that would happen.

Kenya had promised to deal with the masterminds. But numerous attempts to kick-start the process have floundered and many Kenyans are sceptical powerful individuals will be arrested and charged because of widespread impunity among politicians.

"We expect to do the cases in four, five, six months that is our style and that is what we are trying to do," Moreno-Ocampo said at the end of a three-day visit to Kenya. (Editing by Alison Williams)




Nov 5, 2009

ICC prosecutor to request Kenya investigation

NAIROBI, Nov 5 (Reuters) – The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor will request an investigation into suspected crimes against humanity committed during Kenya’s post-election violence in 2008.

The decision by Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced during a visit to Kenya on Thursday is the start of a process that could end with influential cabinet ministers from the east African country facing The Hague court.

Moreno-Ocampo met President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the prosecutor’s statement means the Kenyan leaders decided against referring the case themselves to the Hague court.

Moreno-Ocampo told a news conference he would ask ICC pre-trial judges in December to let him start an investigation, the route he has to follow if a government chooses not to refer suspected crimes committed in its country to the court.

Ethnic clashes after a disputed presidential election killed at least 1,300 people and uprooted more than 300,000, shattering Kenya’s image as a stable, regional economic powerhouse.

"I consider the crimes committed in Kenya were crimes against humanity, therefore the gravity is there. So therefore I should proceed," Moreno-Ocampo told a joint news conference with Kibaki and Odinga in the capital Nairobi.

The 2002 Rome Treaty established the ICC, the world’s first permanent court set up to try individuals for genocide, war crimes and other major human rights violations.

Kenya had promised to deal with the masterminds. But numerous attempts to kick-start the process have floundered and many Kenyans are sceptical powerful individuals will be arrested and charged because of widespread impunity among politicians.

"The hour of reckoning had to come at some point," said Ken Ouko, a sociologist at the University of Nairobi. "That now sort of nullifies the political merry-go-round we have been hearing."

Kenya’s shilling <KES=> remained firm against the dollar after the meeting. Traders said there had been fears Kenya might try and block an ICC investigation but the leaders’ pledges of support soothed market worries.



KENYA TO COOPERATE

During a visit to Kenya in October, crisis mediator Kofi Annan warned that unless the architects of the killings were brought to book, there was a serious risk violence would erupt again at the next presidential election in 2012.

Annan handed over a list of the main suspects to Moreno-Ocampo in July. Political sources say it names cabinet ministers, members of parliament and businessmen. Moreno-Ocampo now plans to investigate some of them.

"His coming shows that the process is progressing to the next level. We are in the global justice system and there is no going back," said Robert Shaw, a Nairobi-based economist and political analyst.

"This goes beyond carting a few people off to The Hague. It might have a cathartic influence on the political system … sort of like lancing a boil," he said.

Kibaki and Odinga said in a joint statement that Kenya remained committed to cooperating with the ICC and to setting up a local judicial mechanism to prosecute violence suspects.

"We are ready to work with his court so that we don’t see a repeat of what we saw last year," Odinga said.

The Standard newspaper said on Wednesday that Kibaki and Odinga agreed after meetings to let Moreno-Ocampo pursue the second option — to cushion themselves from any backlash.

The problem for Kenya’s leaders is that they were rivals for the presidency. The killing started after the electoral commission declared Kibaki the winner, and Odinga cried foul.

If they were seen to be the ones giving up former party allies accused of mobilising ethnic militias, the coalition could fall apart and tribal violence could flare up again.

"The problem is that the people who funded the turmoil are in power now. I’d rather we get an independent body to oversee this," said Bernard Gitau, 50, who is living in a camp in the Rift Valley housing 500 families uprooted by the violence. (Additional reporting by Duncan Miriri and Wangui Kanina in Nairobi and Ben Makori in Nakuru; Editing by Giles Elgood and Mark Trevelyan)