By Netsanet Belay, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Netsanet Belay is Africa director at Amnesty International. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
Like so many thousands of Kenyans, Pamela, David and Kanu are all still struggling to piece their lives together nearly six years after the violence that rocked parts of Kenya following the elections in December 2007.
Finding work, feeding their children and recovering from physical and psychological trauma are just some of their everyday battles.
“I suffered a lot because I have only one hand, but I have been completely forgotten,” Kanu recently told Amnesty International. His arm was hacked off with a machete after he tried to save a woman from being raped by 17 men amid the post-election violence.
Life for Pamela, a 24-year-old mother of four, is still incredibly difficult. She has a bullet lodged in her chest after police fired through the wall of her mud hut. After the incident, she tried to follow up the case with the police. The individual she believes shot her still works in a nearby suburb.
David, a former taxi driver, has struggled to support his family since a bullet to the knee cut short his career. He told Amnesty International that when he tried to report what happened to him to the police, they did nothing.
“Instead of helping me, they tried to arrest me for reporting on the government. I haven’t spoken to them since,” he said. “There is no justice in Kenya, because since I was injured, we reported and nothing was done.”
These are only three of the thousands of victims of unthinkable atrocities during Kenya’s 2007/2008 post-election violence, when more than 1,000 people died and 600,000 were forced out of their homes. The clashes erupted in December 2007 between groups supporting the winner of the presidential elections and his main rival.
In late 2009 the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) stepped in, when it became clear that Kenya was unable to provide the much-needed justice and reparations to victims of the post-election violence. The Court charged Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, both senior political figures at the time on opposing sides, with crimes against humanity including murder, forcible population transfer, and persecution. Joshua arap Sang, a radio journalist, was also charged with similar crimes.
Kenyatta was also accused of responsibility for rape and other inhumane acts – including forced circumcision and penile amputation – carried out by the Mungiki, a criminal gang allegedly under his control. Ruto and Sang’s trial began on September 10. Kenyatta’s trial was originally scheduled to begin on November 12 but has now been postponed until February.
The Kenyan government has been campaigning against the trials since the charges were laid. In recent months, they have secured the support of the African Union, which has tried to discredit the Court in the hope the cases would be dropped. AU representatives have argued that no sitting head of state or government should appear before the ICC, and they have threatened mass withdrawal of African countries from the Rome Statute which governs the ICC.
On Thursday, at an informal meeting, they will try to persuade the U.N. Security Council to back a deferral of the case against Kenyatta and Ruto, citing the recent tragic attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. Regardless, the ICC has announced today that it will postpone Kenyatta's trial until February. But while the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court provides for cases to be deferred in exceptional circumstances, the deferral of these cases is a serious blow to justice for the thousands of Kenyans who look to the Court as their only hope.
“Since they were given the opportunity to do the cases [in Kenya], and they failed, then the cases should continue,” Pamela said.
Time and time again, Kenya has shown itself to be unable and unwilling to deliver justice at home. Over the past few years, Kenya’s authorities have promised to investigate the abuses of 2007/2008 and bring those responsible to justice. But little action has been taken and prosecutions have been minimal, with the majority of victims now feeling that their case has been forgotten.
In 2008, a government-appointed Commission of Inquiry into the post-election violence declared that a special tribunal should be established. The Kenyan parliament voted against proposed legislation to set up the tribunal, paving the way for the International Criminal Court to begin investigations.
Members of the Security Council have a huge responsibility in their hands. A refusal to accept the AU’s request to defer the trials of Kenyatta and Ruto at the International Criminal Court will send a strong and powerful message to the thousands of victims and survivors that impunity will not prevail.
For people like Pamela, David and Kanu, the alternative is, simply, unthinkable.