Within the next six months, two of Kenya’s topmost leaders will be standing in the dock before the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague, to answer charges against humanity, related to events following the 2007 botched general elections.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, will appear in court at different dates to face a litany of serious charges that could determine the future of their political careers, but more importantly, the destiny of their country of fourty million people.
The two leaders have appeared at the Hague before for preliminary hearings, but this will be the first time in the history of the ICC, that a sitting president and his deputy will be in the dock. They will have the onerous task of convincing the international bench that they are innocent of charges of murders, rapes and other crimes against humanity.
With Ruto on the dock will be a former radio presenter, Joshua Arap Sang. Two others who had initially been included in the list of suspects were released for lack of evidence.
Ruto’s trial will begin in September and Uhuru’s will kick off two months later. The two cases will be the highlight of this year’s events, marked by watershed polls last March in which Uhuru was declared winner in a controversial exercise that has divided Kenya down the middle, and locked out a key leader, Raila Odinga, out of the government for the second time.
If past cases are to be taken as a marker, the Uhuru/Ruto hearings in Netherlands could drag on for a year or even more. Several attempts by defense lawyers to have the cases postponed, transferred to Kenya or Tanzania, and even heard through video-conferencing, failed. Recently, one last desperate attempt was made to have Ruto attend only a select number of hearings so that he could be free to attend to official duties at home. Although the Court acceded to that request, the prosecution has now appealed the decision, meaning that should the appeal be allowed, Ruto and Uhuru, who hasnt requested for that consideration, will have to spend weeks or months at a time, in the cold European winter.
Although the two cases will run consecutively, perhaps allowing one of them at any given time to be in charge of the government, fears still persist that their appearance in court in full glare of the international media could hurt the global image of a country preparing to celebrate its 50th year of independence in December. Already some western countries have shifted to a neutral gear awaiting the outcome of the two cases. Am I saying that the next two years will be trying for Kenya? Yes.
In the meantime, there are growing fears in the country that the opposition might try to capitalise on the disorganisation in government to engage in some form of mischief. Since taking over, Uhuru has been laboring to strengthen key arms of government to make them more effective in delivering services, but the situation is still fragile at the moment, given the multiple labor strikes, insecurity and instability in the devolved county administrations. But it is foolhardy for anyone to think that the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) led by Raila Odinga would not want to make as much hay as possible from Uhuru’s and Ruto’s troubles.
The most reasonable advice I can give is that Kenyans must guard against all forms of incitement or action that could plunge the country into anarchy.
And that is my say.