Kenya's Failed Witness Protection Program

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 01:24 a.m. EDT, 24 November 2010

THE HAGUE - Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague presented judges with a list of 20 suspects who he believed were most responsible for financing or organizing the violence after the 2007 elections in Kenya when more than 1,000 people were killed and 600,000 forced from their homes after Kenya's electoral commission declared that President Mwai Kibaki had won a second term in the December 2007 poll.

Suspects included political and business leaders from both parties who were identified by the ICC after numerous requests by other nations including America, for Kenya to initiate an investigation to identify and prosecute the ringleaders.

In 2008, the Kenyan government made the announcement that it will launch the program modeled after "best practices" of other nations and under the advisement and direction of Judge Joyce Aluoch, ICC. She was also tasked to interface between the Kenyan government and the ICC to ensure transparency and reform.

However, in the interim little has been accomplished by this commission against which charges of government graft have been levied. Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo intervention into the Kenyan political reform was a consequence of the systemic corruption that plagues much of Africa found fertile ground with this commission.

What is most disturbing is the fact that key members of the commission are implicated in extra-judicial killings that occurred in the wake of the elections, and yet at the commission's inception Attorney Genral Amos Wako delivered a pronouncement speech regarding its goals and objectives. A fact which Attorney General Charles Njonjo finds unbelievable. In an earlier interview, he was quoted as saying "the police commissioner and attorney general Amos Wako should resign over the Philip Alston report on extra-judicial killings. Njonjo said the two should not be allowed to stay in office any more after the damning report. The police spokesmen has however exonerated the department and instead faulted the report." Source: Kenyan Citizen TV

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Critics of the current government point out that corruption is at the core of the problems that plague the Kenyan government; from the systematic bribery of state officials with government funds to rewarding tribal leaders with lucrative business opportunities in exchange for the delivery of their ethnic groups electoral support.

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Published: 2 April 2010 (Page 2 of 2)

This practice of rampant favoritism was one of several incendiary practices that inflamed the rising passions of Kenya's poor, jobless and disenfranchised. The obvious practice of political pas-de-deux which resulted in the same group of elites being shuffled through the ranks as opposed to being deposed and prosecuted was another. All of which conspired to the inevitable outcome of witnesses who have testified before the commission which the assurance of protection under the new instituted program having their names released to the public.

According to the Associated Press, a witness to the burning of a church filled with women and children where dozens died fears for his life. "We will die if we go there," said Samuel Kimeli Kosgei speaking of the commission and the newly created witness protection program. Kosgei is one of two witnesses who told The Associated Press about living in hiding after their names were leaked out of a government commission, even though they were assured they would remain anonymous.

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The ICC also has a witness protection program that Kenyan witnesses could take part in even at this early stage of the investigation, but they must be referred by the prosecution or defense, according to an ICC official who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with official policy. Hassan Omar Hassan, the vice chairman of the government-funded Kenya National Commission of Human Rights, said once parliament approves the changes witnesses may be well protected by the program. But others are not convinced.

Kosgei said he does not know who exposed his identity following his testimony to the commission in August 2008. He said he has received death threats and was forced into hiding with his wife and infant child. For about a year a non-governmental organization gave him money for his upkeep but funding has run out and he is scrounging in the streets of Nairobi. Still, he said he prefers a life of misery to the government protection program. 'If you have sensitive information in Kenya be prepared to die when you give it out,' Kosgei said. 'My life is hell now. You cannot trust this government. They protect each other,' Kosgei said."Source: The New York Times, Africa Section

Read late breaking Kenyan news on this and other issues at the Daily Nation.

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