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By Wangui Kanina
NAIROBI (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court (ICC) is likely to try a handful of "big men" behind Kenya's post-election crisis which will send a powerful message to the rest of Africa, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan said Wednesday.
Annan led weeks of talks last year that created a coalition government in east Africa's biggest economy and ended violence that killed at least 1,300 people and uprooted another 300,000.
He told reporters that prosecutors in The Hague should handle the masterminds of the bloodshed, while a local tribunal should be set up to try lesser offenders.
"The ICC may end up dealing with a handful of big men ... not many," he said. "I think it will send a very powerful message."
He said Kenyans welcomed the ICC's involvement, and the government has assured him it would collaborate with the court.
The coalition government, created at Annan's talks last year, is under increasing pressure from donors, grassroots groups and the public to tackle graft, inequality and impunity from prosecution.
Annan's frustration with the delays became evident in July when he handed over a list of the top violence suspects to prosecutors in The Hague, saying that the country's long-term stability depended on an end to impunity.
He said no community in Kenya should worry about be singled out unfairly for prosecution.
"The ICC is not after communities. It is after individuals ... we are after the perpetrators of the crimes, and they should think about the thousand or so Kenyans who lost their lives."
Last year's explosion of violence shocked Kenyans and international donors alike, and it shattered the country's image as the region's stable business, tourism and transport hub.
"I have heard rumours to the effect that youth and militia are rearming," Annan added. He said that while Kenyan leaders admitted there had been an increase in criminality in some parts of the country, they downplayed the re-arming rumours.
He underlined that some progress on reforms had been made by the coalition, but that it must be accelerated.
"Kenyans are concerned that the window of opportunity to deliver reforms is rapidly closing," he said. The country could not risk a repeat of the violence at the next election in 2012, "but that is a serious risk if tangible reform is not achieved."
When he arrived in Kenya Sunday, Annan said the government had only a year to 18 months to complete planned reforms ahead of the next electoral cycle.
(Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by David Clarke)

Reuters