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The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court wants to build a case in Kenya against the people who instigated last year's post-election violence. More than a thousand people died in ethnic clashes, many more were displaced. But Kenya's coalition government has not pursued the guilty.
As NPR's Gwen Thompkins reports, many Kenyans say they welcome international intervention.
GWEN THOMPKINS: It's harvest time in the Rift Valley, time to bring in the maize and the cane and the potatoes, and to otherwise reap what you've sown. All of Kenya gets its food from the Rift Valley. And outside the town of Eldoret, nature seems to be shouting: Let's eat. This is a total about-face from the way things were early last year. Back then, crops died in the fields, people were killing each other and the Rift Valley was on fire.
Ken Wafula heads the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Eldoret.
Mr. KEN WAFULA (Executive Director, Center for Human Rights and Democracy, Eldoret): Yeah, there are people who feel that what happened was right.
THOMPKINS: But to everyone else, what happened felt wrong. Kenya's 2007 presidential election put ethnic groups here on opposite sides of a machete. Kenya's majority Kikuyu tribe backed the incumbent, President Mwai Kibaki. And the indigenous Kalenjin tribes of the Rift Valley were behind the then-challenger Raila Odinga. When the election didn't go their way, the Kalenjin were furious. David Rono(ph) is a 26-year-old motorcycle taxi driver.
Mr. DAVID RONO: (Through Translator) Even up to now, I'm still angry. It was not a fair election. It was just a stolen election.
THOMPKINS: Rono is speaking quietly in the privacy of an Eldoret hotel room. He says that after the election, politicians and other community leaders urged area men to act. So he did. Rono burned Kikuyu farm houses. He and others put up checkpoints on the roads. Rono says many of his friends died in the clashes. And when more than 30 Kikuyu women and children burned alive in a nearby church, Rono says, he felt nothing.
Mr. RONO: (Through Translator) By that time, we were not feeling mercy for anyone. So we were not thinking of either the children or anybody. We had really decided if it is bad, let it be bad.
THOMPKINS: The Kalenjin wanted to reclaim land they believed Kikuyus had acquired unfairly, in a grievance dating back to colonial times. But on January 29th, 2008, Rono had to stop. He says police shot him three times at a checkpoint.
Mr. RONO: (Through Translator) I was injured in my private parts, yeah. I can't produce children.
THOMPKINS: Now, Kenya's former political rivals share power in a coalition government. And Rono is just as landless and frustrated as he was before. He says his leaders misled him and should be tried at the International Criminal Court. But Rono says he doesn't feel sorry or guilty for what he and his friends did.
Mr. RONO: (Through Translator) I don't see the reason why we should be either arrested or prosecuted or tried - only the leaders. They are the ones who benefited.
(Soundbite of a rooster)
THOMPKINS: Here, at a tidy, little house between a cow pasture and a chicken coop, Yusila Cherono(ph) spends most of her time in bed. She's a Kalenjin also. At the height of the clashes, she was working at a flower farm in a Kikuyu-dominated area of central Kenya. That was the last time she ever ran. Cherono says a Kikuyu mob chased her near a riverbed behind the flower farm and she never knew what hit her. The blow came from behind, and she says she immediately fainted. When Cherono woke up, her spine was damaged and part of her hip bone crushed. She's 39 years old.
Ms. YUSILA CHERONO: (Through Translator) I didn't do anything to them. I didn't offend anyone. I was just working for my - for the welfare of myself and my child, and what did I do to deserve this? And still, they made me a cripple. They made me the way I am.
THOMPKINS: Cherono says she's eager to meet the International Criminal Court prosecutor. Most people affected by the violence seem to have lost faith in what the local authorities can, or will, do for them. Nelson Wambugu(ph) is a Kikuyu photographer in Eldoret. Last month, his father went to see about some property he had in a Kalenjin-dominated area southwest of the city, and the coroner's report says a mob hacked Wambugu's father to death. Wambugu has yet to hear from the police. His family is now giving up their claim on the land.
Mr. NELSON WAMBUGU (Photographer): My wish would be that the government would allocate my mother some other place to reside in, and dispose of that land to maybe one of the indigenous communities. But not to the murderers, they should not be allowed to benefit out of it.
THOMPKINS: Human rights advocates say they are ready to hand over records of what's been happening in the Rift Valley to the International Criminal Court and to any local tribunal acting in good faith. Because without a serious attempt at justice, they say, Kenya may not survive the next presidential campaign. This place is too fertile. Grievances will grow.
For NPR News, I'm Gwen Thompkins.
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