While the streets of Kenya remain calm on Thursday, a day after the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor named those believed to have instigated post-elections mass violence, the long awaited list ignited strong reactions in the country.
By Claire Wachira, Nairobi
Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo on Wednesday in The Hague requested summons for suspended education minister William Ruto, industrialisation minister Henry Kiprono Kosgey and radio journalist Joshua Arap Sang on charges of murder, deportation, persecutions and torture.
Ocampo believes crimes against humanity were committed by:
- William Samoei Ruto: Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology (suspended), MP for Eldoret North. During the violence: MP for Eldoret North.
- Henry Kiprono Kosgey: Minister of Industrialisation, MP for Tinderet Constituency, ODM Chairman. During the violence: MP for Tinderet.
- Joshua Arap Sang: Head of Operations, KASS FM. During the violence: Radio broadcaster.
- Francis Kirimi Muthaura: Head of the Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet and Chairman of the National Security Advisory Committee.
- Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
- Mohamed Hussein Ali:Chief Executive of the Postal Corporation of Kenya. During the violence: Commissioner of the Kenya Police.
Following the announcement President Mwai Kibaki, whose Party of National Unity (PNU) is also the party of Muthaura, Kenyatta and Ali, said that “we do expect … that the International Criminal Court process will meet our expectations as a nation.”
He did stress that “I wish to state that the people who have been mentioned have not yet been fully investigated as the pre-trial process in The Hague has only but began. They therefore cannot be judged as guilty until the charges are confirmed by the court.”
MPs attempt to block ICC
Most members of parliament termed the list incomplete and demanded that Prime Minister Raila Odinga, member of the Orange Democratic Party (ODM,) issue a comprehensive statement in regard to the government’s position on the list of suspects.
A few hours prior to Ocampo’s announcement, a section of MPs from the ODM party initiated a process to withdraw Kenya from the Rome Statute and block the ICC from investigating the post election violence.
This follows Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto’s motion that sought to bar Ocampo from prosecuting suspected masterminds of the post election violence and allow for a local judicial process.
In his motion Ruto, a close ally of suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto, sought support of fellow legislators to persuade the government to withdraw from the Rome Statute.
“This House resolves that the government takes immediate action to have the International Crimes Act repealed so that Kenya be immediately released from any obligation to implement the Rome Statute and further that any criminal investigations or prosecution arising out of the post election violence of 2007/2008 be undertaken under the framework of the new Constitution,” Ruto said. Parliament has yet to decide on the motion.
Meanwhile, Uhuru Kenyatta brushed off Ocampo’s claims, saying he is an innocent man.
“My conscience has been clear and will always be clear that I have committed no crime,” said Kenyatta, the son of the country’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta. “ We did help desperate Kenyans to get tents over their heads, clothes and food in their stomachs. This I would do again.”
He said his record spoke for itself including ensuring a peaceful transition of power in 2002 when he lost to Kibaki. .
Ruto also maintains his innocence, dubbing the accusation as a “deliberate scheme.”
“I am ready, willing and available as I said before to face the prosecutor with his witnesses in court as when I am required to do so. My conscience is very clear,” said Ruto, who was parliamentarian from Eldoret North, one of the regions struck by mass violence following the December 2007 elections which left 1,300 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.
“I am very prepared for this because I am absolutely certain in my mind that I neither participated, organised, financed nor had anything to do with the post election violence at all.”
He further said he wasn’t surprised when Ocampo named him as one of the six suspects: “All along I had known that there was a deliberate scheme hatched and executed by fellows who are not interested in justice but interested in other considerations
Muthaura, meanwhile, claimed that listing him as one of the suspects was aimed at maligning his name.
"The suggestion that I have done anything to warrant criminal investigation is manifest nonsense. It amounts to an unwarranted slur on my reputation and is both unfair and unjustified,” he said, adding that he would “voluntarily” go to The Hague if summoned.
Kosgey said that while “I regret Mr. Ocampo's decison to include me in his list. I welcome the process and I am confident that I will be vindicated in the course of time."
Journalist fears for his life
Kass FM journalist Sang, the only non-politican named by Ocampo, said says he fears his life is in danger, and is asking for police protection. Sang says his is a case of “small fish being targeted,” and denies ever inciting people to violence. He criticized both the work of Ocampo and the criterion used to arrive at the six.
Strong regional support for suspects
Ocampo’s list was vastly criticized in the suspects’ strongholds and their political allies. In Gatundu, Uhuru Kenyatta’s home turf, residents condemned Ocampo’s list and claimed it was doctored to suit his political rivals.
In Eldoret residents took issue with the list, claiming there was a deliberate effort to curtail William Ruto’s 2012 ambitions. In the western town of Kisumu, also hit by the post-election violence, residents called for the “immediate dispatch” of the suspects to The Hague.
The general public in Kenya remains divided over the suspects.
David Ngethe, a Mombasa businessman, said he was “shocked” by the list. “We expected some names in the list and they are missing. Uhuru Kenyatta, Francis Muthaura and Hussein Ali only moved in to stop escalation of the violence. Those who sponsored violence in Nairobi and Kisumu have been tactfully left out. Ocampo has done a disservice to Kenya.”
Nairobi resident Francis Oduor, meanwhile, calls for the six people on the list to “resign from the government. Come 2012, we shall now have free and fair elections. Let justice prevail.”