Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kenya: Poll Chaos Witnesses Flown Out

The International Criminal Court has placed three key post-election violence witnesses under its protection Nairobi

The disclosure came as it became evident that the government had not set aside funds for a Witness Protection Agency meant to offer security to people with crucial information on the chaos that followed the 2007 elections.
The three, sources said, were among nine people who were under the protection of the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights (KNCHR).

Six hotspots

The ICC took them in following fears they could be targets of the violence masterminds.

They are said to have been flown out three weeks ago as The Hague steps up investigations into the planners, financiers and executors of the chaos that killed 1,133 people and displaced 650,000.

Even though the ICC has declined to reveal anything, sources said a fresh team of detectives was flown in last week and has zeroed in on the six hotspots of Naivasha, Eldoret, Kisumu, Kericho, and Nairobi's Mathare and Kibera slums.

Last week, Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo confirmed that the investigators were here and were racing to tie up loose ends to meet a December deadline for chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to bring his case before The Hague.

On Tuesday, one of the sources said financial constraints had made it difficult for the KNCHR to accommodate all the witnesses in safe houses.

The source said the government agency had already spent Sh11 million in the last four months on the nine witnesses.

Mr Hassan Omar of the KNCHR confirmed that some key witnesses had been flown out.

"It is a very expensive venture ... the government must set aside adequate funds for witness protection," he said.

He said on Tuesday that the committee was disappointed by the amount of money allocated to the programme.

Mr Kilonzo was also disappointed by the lack of funds for the Witness Protection Agency.

Attorney general Amos Wako said Sh1.2 billion had been requested to roll out the programme, but the Treasury did not allocate any funds in last month's Budget.

Reports of threats against potential witnesses have been on the increase, with the KNCHR warning that the ICC may not succeed in its mission unless security was provided.

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