By Zach Waksman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The future of Kenyan politics entered a state of flux on Monday, after the International Criminal Court confirmed charges against Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Eldoret North MP William Ruto, Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura and Journalist Joshua Sang. All four men are major players in the present regime, but the charges against Kenyatta, who also serves as Finance Minister, and Ruto of are particular note. Both plan to run for president of the east African country this year.
They will face trial for alleged crimes against humanity that took place in the weeks following the 2007-08 elections. The charges include acts of murder, excessive force, and forcible relocation of populations. More than 1,200 people were killed during this time, and an additional 600,000 people were forced to flee their homes. Some have not been able to return yet.
President Mwai Kibaki, who was the winner of that election, made a call for calm after the announcement. In his address from Harambee House in Nairobi, he announced that he has instructed Attorney General Githu Muiga to form a legal panel to advise his government on how best to respond to the ICC’s decision.
“I have with immediate effect directed the Attorney General to constitute a legal team to study the ruling and advise on the way forward,” Kibaki said.
The accused plan to appeal the charges against them. Ruto, who, along with Sang, faces charges of organizing attacks on Kibaki supporters based on their ethnicity or political affiliations, held a press conference to say that he would not suspend his presidential campaign. He also sounded certain that he would ultimately be acquitted.
“These allegations are and will forever be strange to me. I have been and will forever be a stranger to the allegations against me. My legal team is going to analyze the different actions we will take as a team,” Ruto told journalists in Nairobi. “I want to inform Kenyans that I’m firmly in the presidential race. To my worthy competitors, let us meet at the ballot and let the people of Kenya decide. To my family especially wife Rachel, mother Sarah and children I am eternally grateful. I am persuaded and clear in my mind truth will prevail and innocence confirmed.
Kenyatta, who is the son of Kenya’s first president and holds a fortune of over $500 million, will stand trial alongside Muthaura in a separate proceeding. He is accused of multiple crimes against humanity, including sexual violence. He issued a statement denying the charges.
“My conscience is clear, has been clear and will always remain clear that I am innocent of all the accusations that have been leveled against me,” Kenyatta posted on Facebook, adding that he would continue to cooperate with the ICC, “because I believe in the rule of law.”
Last week, he told the BBC that he would continue his campaign regardless of any charges he faced.
Sang’s inclusion as a suspect was seen as a surprise as he was not part of the government. He hosted a radio program, which he is accused of using to inform supporters of where to conduct coordinated attacks.
Human Rights Watch hailed the ICC’s decision. The resulting trials, according to its statement, would “break with decades of impunity in Kenya for political violence.” The country still needs to set up its own apparatus. Kenya attempted to form a special tribunal to investigate, but ultimately decided that the ICC would be a better venue.
Amnesty International also expressed concern about the efficacy of having the ICC handle this matter, particularly regarding the effect that budget cuts at the ICC might have on its ability to provide fast and fair trials for the defendants..
“[T]hese are just four individuals. Thousands of human rights abuses, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity, took place during the post-election period and thousands of victims are still waiting for justice,” said Justus Nyang’aya, Director of Amnesty International, Kenya. “It is vital that the Kenyan authorities open investigations and, where there is sufficient admissible evidence; prosecute all those suspected of committing crimes.”
The ICC declined to pursue charges against Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey and former Police Commissioner Hussein Ali. No trial date has been set.
For more information, please see:
BBC — Kenyatta and Ruto to Face ICC Trial over Kenya Violence — 23 January 2012
Daily Nation — ICC Judges Confirm Cases against Four Top Kenyans — 23 January 2012
Daily Nation — Kenyan Suspects to Appeal against ICC Ruling — 23 January 2012
Daily Nation — Kibaki Order AG to Form Probe Team on ICC Ruling — 23 January 2012
KBC — Cases against Ruto, Sang, Muthaura, and Uhuru Confirmed — 23 January 2012
KBC — Kibaki Directs AG to Form Team to Study ICC Ruling — 23 January 2012
KBC — Ruto Maintains He is Innocent — 23 January 2012
Standard — Breaking News: Four of the Six Suspects to Face Trial – ICC — 23 January 2012
Washington Post — Int’l Court Orders Kenyan Presidential Hopefuls to Stand Trial in Postelection Violence Case — 23 January 2012