As one country teeters on the edge of an explosive return to civil conflict following a disputed election, the ICC Prosecutor has presented the case for charging six suspected ringleaders behind the deadly riots which Kenya experienced following her General Election in December 2008 which the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki claimed suspicious victory over the Orange Democratic Movement’s Raila Odinga.
Generally seen as one of the more socially stable countries in the region, Kenya was then wracked by almost six weeks of inter-communal violence which left over one thousand people dead. Kikuyu – the ethnic group to which Kibaki belongs – were targeted disproportionately due to their real and perceived domination of national politics since Independence and the domestic economy: although Kikuyu armed-gangs also were reported to have attacked others based on ethnic group.
One of the worst single incidents was the immolation of three dozen unarmed civilians, mostly Kikuyu, in a church at Eldoret on New Year’s Day.
Those named by the ICC include Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy Prime Minister and son of the first post-Independence President, Jomo Kenyatta; and William Rutu, former Higher Education Minister who was suspended in October 2010 following separate allegations of corruption. Any charging of Rutu has the potential to cause most discontent, with ODM supporters still smarting following the pre-election departure of Kenyatta’s KANU faction from the ODM to Kibaki’s camp and subsequent denial of outright victory.
I admit that I am surprised that charges are being considered. Not because the riots were not individually horrific, but because they were relatively small beer for sub-Saharan Africa. Although peace negotiations and the formation of Coalition Government in April 2008 agreed that those responsible face trial at the ICC, part of me wonders if this is to remind Kenya, a signatory to the Rome Statute that her responsibilities include detaining indictees and not hob-nobbing with them.