MPs are divided whether foreigners should be paid Sh538 million in claims over losses incurred in the 2008 post-election violence before it is confirmed that all claims by Kenyans have been settled.
The National Assembly Committee on Administration and National Security Tuesday heard a petition in which businessmen from Uganda and Rwanda, are seeking compensation for losses they suffered during the chaos.
The amount has been reduced from their initial claim of Sh4.7 billion after investigations revealed that most of claims were fraudulent.
Attorney-General Githu Muigai said an inter-ministerial committee investigated the mater and could not verify the claims made and drastically reduced the figure.
“An inter-ministerial committee established that some of the claims were fake and only Sh538 million of the claims were found to be verifiable and the matter is now before Cabinet,” he said.
Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma said Kenyans who suffered during the 2007/08 post-poll turmoil should be compensated fully, including the internally displaced persons, yet to receive compensation before the government can compensate outsiders.
“The mention of PEV causes tears to well in the eyes of many Kenyans, including IDPs who are yet to be sorted, returnees, those with dead relatives and the maimed who should first be compensated as a matter of public interest before the government can deal with non-Kenyans,” he said.
However, Kandara MP Alice Wahome said those who suffered during the PEV period should be compensated whether Kenyans or not, since everyone was entitled to justice.
Prof Muigai said there was East African protocol on settlement of losses suffered in any of the countries, adding that even if the country postponed the payments, the matter could be raised at the regional forum, where Kenya has less influence.
“The country seems not to learn its lesson because I5 years after failing to pay the Anglo Leasing claimants, it was forced to do so after it decided to float the Eurobond. If we bury our heads in the sand, we could in future be forced to settle the payment when the country decides to float an international instrument,” he said.
Committee Chairman Asman Kamama (Tiaty) said the government should go for a “win-win situation” where both Kenyans and the neighbours would be compensated for their losses.
Mr Kaluma asked whether it had been ascertained if Kenyan businessmen had suffered similar losses in the neighbouring countries and whether they had been reparations, but Prof Muigai said in the spirit of diplomacy and “good neighbourliness” the government should settle the bill as had been claimed by the regional traders.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery said his ministry was not “keen” on making the payment to settle the regional dispute, saying the government focus was on the ongoing drought, national security and the August 8 general elections.
“The matter is before the Cabinet but it is not an issue my ministry is in a hurry to settle because we have other pressing national issues,” he said.
Treasury Director General of Budget and Economic Affairs Geoffrey Mwau said there was no policy direction on how to settle such payments, saying that was the reason the matter had been forwarded to Cabinet, but added that Parliament would be required to appropriate the funds once the issue is approved.
Dr Mwau also called for a “clear framework” to deal with such compensation in the region, saying losses was happening every day in the various East African countries and not only in 2008, and that the issue required to be looked into holistically.
Prof Muigai said a senior police officer had been appointed to ascertain the claims made by the regional traders, but a ministerial committee was later tasked with the matter, in which it established that only a fraction of the billions claimed were authentic.