Kenyan politicians accused of orchestrating post-election violence after the country’s disputed Dec. 27, 2007, presidential and parliamentary elections may finally get their day in court.
That court, of course, will be the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, and the prosecutor will be Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the man who is also involved in cases of genocide and war crimes against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir.
Mr. Ocampo recently met with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to inform them of the next step in the post-election violence cases, and this week told reporters that he planned to try up to a half dozen top Kenyan politicians in open court, with names released as soon as Dec. 15.
“We’ll prove that some leaders from both parties, both sides, were abusing the loyalty of their communities to attack others,” Mr. Ocampo said, in a video played for reporters planning to cover the upcoming Kenyan cases at The Hague. “The crimes committed were serious. They were not just crimes against one community or Kenya; but crimes against humanity and justice has to be done.”
It didn’t have to happen this way.
The violence of late December 2007 to mid-February 2008, which killed an estimated 1,200 people and displaced 350,000 others, had a brutal ethnic nature that shook the world’s faith in Kenya’s fragile multiparty democracy and its reputation as a stable entry point for investment into East Africa.
As part of an agreement that created a coalition government and a new parliament – through mediation conducted by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan -- the new parliamentarians were required to create a special tribunal to investigate the post-election violence. If the parliamentarians balked at this requirement, the ICC could step in and carry out the prosecution on their behalf.
Balk they did, and by July 2009 it became clear that Ocampo would have to take over the investigation.
The chief evidence for the ICC case was collected by the Kenyan government itself, under a commission headed by Kenyan court Justice Philip Waki. The so-called Waki Commission issued its report to Kenya’s parliament, which apparently never acted on it. The commission report included eyewitness accounts from human rights activists and local community leaders, many of whom have been forced to seek police protection or to go into hiding.
Ocampo has indicated that he has enough evidence from the Waki report to prosecute at least six senior government officials. Further reports have indicated that police and other security officials may be subject to investigation as well.
Curiously, while no Kenyan official has been named by either the Waki Commission or by Ocampo’s office, two senior politicians – former Education Minister William Ruto of the Orange Democratic Movement and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta of the president’s Party for National Unity – have taken the step to name themselves, and to begin their own public defense.
Mr. Ruto went so far as flying to The Hague a few weeks back to meet with Ocampo’s office, saying that he did so to clear his name.
“I used the opportunity to share my point of view and the information that I have on issues ICC is investigating in our country,” Mr. Ruto told the East African Standard newspaper.
Ruto claimed that the Kenyan National Human Rights Commission (KNHRC) and Justice Waki had paid informants and manufactured evidence against him. “Kenya National Human Rights Commission and Waki [Commission] did not give some of us, and especially myself, opportunity to respond to issues raised. The judge himself [Philip Waki] went ahead to peddle falsehood that I had testified when I had not.”
Mr. Kenyatta formally – but unsuccessfully – requested that his name be removed from the KNHRC report to the Waki Commission, believing that it implicated him in the violence. He has said that he welcomes the chance to face the charges in court.
"Personally, I think once due process has taken place the truth eventually will come through and people will get to know what the situation was,” Kenyatta told the Daily Nation newspaper last month. “Kenya has proved that it stands by its domestic and international commitments."
By mid-December, Ocampo’s announcement should end the mystery, and Mr. Ruto and Mr. Kenyatta should know whether their troubles are over, or just beginning.