Kenyans watch as their leaders take the stand at ICC hearing
Pre-trial hearings at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on human rights charges against six Kenyan leaders are must-see TV across Kenya, although support for Hague trial hinges on firm proof of guilt.
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More than 1,100 people died and 630,000 were forced from their homes as supporters of rival politicians clashed in a handful of ethnically divided towns, mostly in the Rift Valley which scythes through the country’s center.Skip to next paragraph
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Faith in the ICC wobbles
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, took up the case when it became clear that promised domestic processes and tribunals in Kenya were stumbling.
Even had they gone ahead, they would have been seen by a majority of the population as open to manipulation by the country’s powerful, opinion polls show.
But support for the Hague process – which ran nationwide at close to 70 percent in late 2010 – had dropped by as much as half in Kenyatta’s strongholds in central Kenya by August this year, according to a recent poll.
Synovate, a Kenyan market research firm, found that those agreeing that they backed the ICC trials there had dropped from 70 percent to 36 percent. In areas traditionally supportive of the men contesting the second case at The Hague, a similar pattern emerged.
Questions have since been asked over whether Ocampo truly has the evidence, and whether it is right for international justice to rush in when some were calling for more time for Kenya to investigate its own.
“It seems to us that here is a man who has been targeted by Ocampo, and by people who have ill feelings towards Kikuyus,” said Wilson Muiruri, a café owner in Nakuru, where Kenyatta is accused of sending Mungiki fighters.
But it would be wrong to suggest that Kenyans have lost confidence in the ICC process, says Ngunjiri Wambugu, director of Kikuyus for Change, a Nairobi-based civil society group.
“That waning support is largely down to a narrative that people from that community are the victims here, that Kenyatta’s the subject of a witch-hunt,” he tells The Monitor. “It’s a narrative that’s very cleverly been spun over the last couple of months, as Kenyatta and his supporters have campaigned heavily among their supporters.”
It was important to note, Wambugu adds, that most of those who profess to back Kenyatta do so out of a genuine belief that he and Muthaura are innocent. Should prosecutors "catch him out telling a lie," things will change.
“What will see the support for the ICC swing back the other way, even in central Kenya, will be if the prosecution shows that it has evidence, that there is proof that these guys did these things,” Wambugu says.
As the hearings continue, Kenyans will be watching closely. The current pre-trial "confirmation hearings" run until Oct. 5, after which judges will rule whether there is enough evidence to continue to full trials.
If that happens, the cases will drag through next year, when both Kenyatta and William Ruto, one of the accused in the other case, have already said they intend to stand for president in elections due at the end of 2012.