An International Criminal Court begun on Saturday an investigation into crimes against humanity in post-election violence in Kenya in 2007-2008 in a move ICC prosecutor said that should serve as a warning to other African states.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo is in Kenya to speak to victims of the ethnic clashes which erupted following a disputed presidential election, starting a process which could see influential politicians and businessmen from Kenya going to The Hague.
ICC judges have authorised Moreno-Ocampo to investigate the masterminds of the 2007-2008 unrest in which authorities have said more than 1,200 people were killed, several hundreds raped and more than 350,000 forcibly displaced.
"I think it's important to investigate these crimes to ensure Kenya has a peaceful election in 2012. I would say that in the next year and a half, there may be 15 elections in Africa and we have to be sure these elections are peaceful," he said.
"Kenya will send the signal to all these countries that (if) you commit crimes (against humanity) you can go to The Hague," he told a news conference.
Investigations are expected to last up to seven months and the trials to start in 2012.
Kenya had promised to deal with the masterminds. But numerous attempts to kick-start the process floundered and many Kenyans doubt powerful individuals will be arrested and charged because of widespread impunity among politicians.
Moreno-Ocampo said he was in the country for five days to speak to victims of the bloodshed, church leaders, tribal leaders and local authorities, but would not be taking any statements just yet.
He said he has had full cooperation from the government and promises of more, including in arrests when needed.
He also said he was willing to speak to anyone who believed they had been identified as suspects on a list of 20 names he had previously submitted to the court.
"The investigation is just starting and we are collecting evidence and we have no one yet, suspect wise. We came back to listen to the victims, I have to represent them. I have to present the crimes they suffered to the judges," he added.
He said he would speak to about 30 victims, and urged the government to provide security for witnesses.
Some Kenyans who lost their loved ones and property had high expectations of the chief prosecutor.
"The government seems to have forgotten us but we hope (Moreno-) Ocampo will make true his promise and arrest the people responsible for our sufferings," said Beatrice Nyokabi, who still lives in a camp for the internally displaced.
Peter Otieno, who lost all his possessions during the violence in the Rift Valley town of Naivasha, said he was willing to meet Moreno-Ocampo.
"We have had sleepless nights and we now have hope that the people responsible for our suffering will be brought to book," he told Reuters.
ReutersLast Mod: 08 Mayıs 2010, 18:28