By Ange Ngu Thomas
Prosecutors at the controversial International Criminal Court (ICC)will tomorrow determine how they have to handle the now sensitive case against Kenyan President elect Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto. Both are charged with instigating the 2007 post electoral violence in which more than one thousand people were killed and half a million people made homeless.
After Supreme Court chief Justice Willy Mutunga upheld the presidential results on Saturday March 30th, Kenyatta and Ruto will be president and deputy by the time their trial starts in July. The ICC is notoriously slow in its prosecutions and the case might take the better part of the five year presidential mandate of Kenyatta and Ruto, his deputy. During the campaigns, Kenyatta’s opponent in a direct reference to the problems the trial will cause to how Kenya is run, his main Rival Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Kenyatta will be running the country through “skype” as he answers the charges in the Hague
President Obama congratulated president-elect Uhuru Kenyatta on “behalf of the American people” and commended Prime Minister Odinga for accepting the verdict of the Supreme Court.
Uhuru Kenyatta won last month’s presidential election by just 50.07%, but the results were contested by his main rival Raila Odinga who later lodged a complaint about irregularities at the Kenyan Supreme Court.
World leaders have unanimously congratulated the Kenya president elect and this raises questions about how they will perceive the ICC Kenyan president and possibly help arrest him if the court finally finds him guilty.
Reacting to the Supreme Court verdict, defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga expressed dismay at the decision, but said he accepted the court’s decision in order to avoid bloodshed. He however, vowed to use other peaceful means to settle the standoff about election irregularities he claimed “tainted the elections”.
What happens next?
President elect Uhuru Kenyatta has promised to cooperate with the ICC in his own trial but it is not clear if he will abandon his presidential duties and appear in his own trial during the years the case is expected to last. All other indictees have attended their trials so except they want to treat his case differently, Uhuru Kenyatta will be expected to stand in the dock and answer questions like any other suspects. .
Prior to the election, there were some speculations in some western capitals that Kenyatta would not be the right man to do business with if he won the election because of the pending trial in The hague.
Some political commentators, who initially wrongly predicted that the ICC charges might be a stumbling block to Mr. Kenyatta’s bid, have been quick to make a u-turn and now suggest that the indictment ironically helped Mr. Kenyatta to win the elections.
According to a US law Professor, David Bosco, there are options for Mr. Kenyatta to get off the hook “My guess is that Kenyatta will find a way to extradite himself from his pledge. Kenyatta will no doubt face some pressure from Western states… but he will likely calculate that, given their other interests in Kenya, they won’t force the issue.”
Family dispute that just will not go away
The case against Uhuru Kenyatta at the ICC notwithstanding, the March elections is a continuation of the 1950’s stand-off between two of the best Known rival political families in Kenya.
Kenyan founding president Jomo Kenyatta beat rival Jaramogi Oginga Odinga when the families clashed in the 1960’s and 1970’s. During last month’s elections, Raila failed to square the bitter conflict between the Kenyatta and Odinga families. Another Kenyatta, this time the son of Jomo, won again.
Raila and Uhuru are still relatively young men and still have the will and ability to fight another day. Their 2013 battle is technically over in favour of a Kenyatta. This men will hopefully still clash again (hopefully) for the last time in 2018 when the next presidential elections are scheduled. Their children will most probably continue this unending family feud.