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ICC charges Kenyan leaders for post-election violence

The International Criminal Court at The Hague confirms charges against senior Kenyan politicians and a radio journalist for crimes against humanity.

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer / January 23, 2012

A combination photograph shows Kenya's finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta (L) addressing a news conference in his office in the capital Nairobi in a file photo, and former Kenyan cabinet minister William Ruto standing inside his house after hearing the news from the International Criminal Court, in Nairobi January 23. Both men have been charged with crimes against humanity by the ICC.

Thomas Mukoya/Goran Tomasevic/REUTERS

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The International Criminal Court has sent a signal that there are consequences for political leaders who use violence to achieve political goals by confirming charges of crimes against humanity against four prominent Kenyans.

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Whether this changes the political landscape, ends the culture of impunity, or prevents future violence in Kenya, is a matter for Kenyans themselves to decide.  

In its decision, announced from the Hague today, the ICC confirmed charges of crimes against humanity first laid in Dec. 2010 against four men for their alleged role in organizing mass violence following the 2007 presidential elections.

The charged are former Higher Education Minister William Ruto, former Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, former civil service chief Francis Muthaura, and radio talk show host Joshua arap Sang. Charges were dropped against two others: former Kenyan police commissioner Hussein Ali and parliamentarian Henry Kosgey.

The four men are accused of organizing mass violence following the disputed presidential elections of Dec. 27, 2007, in which President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner. Senior leaders of both main parties, the president’s Party of National Unity and the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, are accused of stirring up ethnic violence for political advantage and retribution. At least 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 displaced from their homes.

Human rights activists and observers hailed the decision.

“From the perspective of transparency, the court is seen to be acting in an open way, which is something that Kenyans are not familiar with,” says Comfort Ero, director of the Nairobi office of the International Crisis Group, which issued a report ahead of the ICC decision. “Given how volatile the Kenyan political environment can be, and given the history of questionable judicial processes in the past, I think for Kenyans to see these alleged perpetrators of violence to face justice in a process that is free of interference is a powerful thing.”

Today’s decision was watched closely by Kenyans, and police prepared for a potential violent reaction in towns where violence had occurred.

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