As activists in the U.S. demand justice for murders for which no one has been punished, Kenyans are reeling from a similar judgment that finds no one accountable for a few months of post-election violence starting in 2007 that left over a thousand dead.
Charges were finally dropped last week by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Uhuru Kenyatta and three other Kenyans for a lack of cooperating witnesses. The President and other alleged collaborators were all accused of bearing the greatest responsibility in the outbreak of ethnic violence in which 1,133 people were killed, 600,000 displaced and property destroyed.
“As they say, one case down, two more to go,” said a visibly relieved President Kenyatta through his communication unit twitter handle, alluding to the ongoing cases against deputy William Ruto and Joshua arap Sang, radio broadcaster.
“I am very keen to run to my wife right now and tell her what is happening. To be sincere, we are very excited,” he said.
Opposition party leader Raila Odinga offered congratulations to President Kenyatta after the crimes against humanity charges were dropped. He described the court action as “of great significance to our country.”
While the decision to withdraw the four-year old case pleased those who faced serious charges and likely sentences of jail time, it was heartrending to those who lost loved ones, homes, lands or were raped and beaten because of their ethnicity.
The victims’ lawyer Fergal Gaynor called the dismissal of charges “regrettable” and said the court action would “inevitably disappoint the victims of the crimes charged in this case.”
“The victims’ quest for justice has been cruelly frustrated, both in Kenya and at the ICC,” said the lawyer.
In a report by Amnesty International, “Crying for Justice,” the human rights group said the government’s failure to investigate left victims powerless, poor and marginalized. The report, based on interviews with victims and civil society groups, said that many Kenyans were struggling to recover from injuries sustained during the unrest, while others were awaiting compensation for the loss of property and livelihoods. While some people have been resettled, many continue to be neglected.
Some 40,000 incidents of sexual and gender-based violence are believed to have occurred, said Amnesty. More than 600,000 were displaced.
Amnesty’s research suggests many victims did not go to the police for fear of abuse or reprisals. Others claimed they were asked for money when they reported crimes, or were threatened with being implicated in some of the events they had witnessed. The commission of inquiry’s report found that the police were responsible for 405 of the 1,113 deaths.
Muthoni Wanyeki, regional director for east Africa at Amnesty International, said justice delayed was justice denied. “In the past, both the Kenyan government and parliament have consistently obstructed efforts to investigate and prosecute those suspected of committing crimes under international law,” she said. “It is time to end impunity, to provide reparation for those who have suffered and to finally bring this shameful chapter in our history to a close.”