Scholarships out, cocktails in – Kenya's response to Hague trials

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The Independent Online

Kenya has responded to the expected ICC prosecution of two of its cabinet ministers and a government mandarin at The Hague by trebling its embassy budget for cocktails and canapés.

The suspects, known in Kenya as the "Ocampo Six", are under investigation for crimes against humanity for their alleged role in post-election violence that left 1,500 people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless in late 2007 and early 2008. The hike in the entertainment budget for The Hague mission, which came at the expense of money set aside for scholarships, was overseen by Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta – one of the ICC suspects.

There is already widespread anger in Kenya at government attempts to get parliament to pay the suspects' legal costs. Three years on from the blood-letting that followed a disputed election result, at least 7,000 Kenyans still live in appalling conditions in internal refugee camps. The ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo's decision in December last year to name a half dozen figures from Kenya's political elite as ringleaders in the post-election mayhem has sparked frantic efforts in Nairobi to get the prosecutions derailed.

Kenya's president Mwai Kibaki and prime minister Raila Odinga cooperated with the ICC investigation – which their names were kept out of – until it touched too close to some of their political allies. The decision to name government ministers had been expected, but the summons for Francis Muthaura, the political right hand man of the president, saw the government change tack.

Last month Nairobi failed to convince ICC judges that its efforts to investigate the post-election violence were serious, effectively confirming that The Hague hearings will go ahead. In March it also failed in backroom efforts in New York to get the UN Security Council to suspend possible prosecutions. The vice president, Kalonzo Musyoka, has been touring Africa to drum up opposition to The Hague court and Kenya invited Sudan's ICC-indicted president Omar al-Bashir to Nairobi for the promulgation of the new constitution.

Despite high-level political efforts to discredit the investigation, the ICC enjoys overwhelming public support for its effort to break the culture of impunity in Kenyan politics.

Supposedly a beacon of stability in East Africa, Kenya witnessed 30 days of horrifying violence when clashes broke out between supporters of rival political parties. The fighting left 3,500 people injured and 650,000 forcibly displaced, in addition to the dead. Initially presented as a spontaneous eruption of tribal clashes, it later emerged that high-level figures on both sides had orchestrated much of the violence.

Kenya's judicial system is widely acknowledged to be corrupt.