THE tribal violence that followed Kenya's flawed elections almost two years ago caused at least 1'350 deaths and led to thousands of people being displaced from their homes. Despite pressure from many quarters -- including human rights organisations in Kenya, a report by Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, and the United States -- the power-sharing government of Kenya has made no serious effort to set up an independent inquiry to identify those responsible for the violence. Yesterday, however, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, arrived in Nairobi and announced that he intended to seek the permission of the government to investigate what happened in 2007 and, as necessary, to prosecute those responsible. It is thought that Sr Moreno-Ocampo already has evidence provided to him by Mr Annan and in addition the Kenyan Human Rights Commission has drawn up a list of 219 suspects which includes some government ministers.
The International Criminal Court does not need permission from the government to take action, since Kenya is a signatory of the statute of the Court, but it is doing so as a courtesy. If it goes ahead this will be the first case of a prosecution that is not based on a civil war or a revolution but simply on civil violence. All of the ICC's current prosecutions involve African countries and its many critics claim that this shows it is avoiding called-for action against powerful Western nations.