In Summary
  • Since then, it has been no secret that there is no love lost between the government and the civil society organisations, who insist that they speak for the 1,133 victims killed during the post-2007 election violence, rape victims and the 600,000 displaced.
  • Anger at the influence of non-governmental organisations drove a senior counsellor at the Kenya Mission in New York to ask that civil society organisations be excluded from the ASP, arguing that, as observers, they should keep mum, not organise or be heard.
  • During a November 21 Working Group on Amendments meeting, Kenya explained that its proposal to amend Article 27 – which does not recognise official status of accused persons — is not an attempt to rewrite the Rome Statute.

The Assembly of State Parties in New York has turned into a grudge match between the Kenyan Government and civil society organisations.

During last year’s ASP at The Hague, Netherlands, the civil society outflanked the government, which had lobbied African diplomats to push through amendments to the Rome Statute that would release President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto from either facing charges at the International Criminal Court – or allowing them not to appear in person.

Strong words were traded between Attorney-General Githu Muigai and transitional justice expert Njonjo Mue, in one forum, forcing the official delegation to summon help from Kenyan MPs and other politicians.

Since then, it has been no secret that there is no love lost between the government and the civil society organisations, who insist that they speak for the 1,133 victims killed during the post-2007 election violence, rape victims and the 600,000 displaced.

This year, Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice (KPTJ) has been circulating a flyer entitled “Kenya’s 7-Step Formula for Impunity”, which has incensed the official government team as well as representatives from councils of elders which arrived together with activist Ngunjiri Wambugu, politician Ronald Osumba and a posse of legal consultants to shore up claims that the government had no victims problem.

EXCLUDE CIVIL SOCIETIES

A Twitter war was simmering as the sessions wound down to the weekend, with the pro-government activists expected to stage a side event tomorrow to respond to what KPTJ and African civil society organisations have been circulating.

An October 16 diplomatic communication from the Kenya Mission to the UN does not refer to the civil society in charitable terms – calling them “a cacophony of civil society organisations whose constituency and mandate is suspect and whose agenda has more to do with purveying the displeasure of their funders than promoting the principles of the Rome Statute or human rights”.

“Kenya does not want civil society to participate in ASP meetings either at The Hague or in New York, or even to talk,” observes Mr Stephen A. Lamony, Senior Adviser on the UN and Africa at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC).

Anger at the influence of non-governmental organisations drove a senior counsellor at the Kenya Mission in New York to ask that civil society organisations be excluded from the ASP, arguing that, as observers, they should keep mum, not organise or be heard.

It is a position Mr Lamony scoffs at, saying the inclusion of civil society organisations in the Rome Statute is not accidental since they were instrumental in its formulation. “They participate in meetings as a right,” he added.

DIFFICULT RELATIONS

His sentiments were endorsed in the new ASP’s President Sidiki Kaba’s maiden speech: “The investigation reports of civil society organisations provide an invaluable source of information in conflict zones and must be protected.”

Still, the Kenya Government is smarting from the wounds inflicted on its diplomacy last year by a better-organised civil society that lobbied African states at the ASP. In response, Kenya is waging an all-out diplomatic offensive on NGOs.

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