, THE HAGUE, Apr 7 – Three of the Ocampo Six appeared before the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Thursday where charges they are facing were read to them.
Those who faced the ICC judges are suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto, Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey and Kass FM Radio Presenter Joshua arap Sang.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Head of the Civil Service Amb Francis Muthaura and former Police Commissioner Mohammed Hussein Ali will appear before the judges on Friday afternoon.
The six are accompanied by 42 Kenyan MPs and some of their family members who are showing them solidarity.
1 – What is the case all about?
The six prominent Kenyans are being accused of masterminding widespread violence after the presidential elections of 2007.
Incumbent president Mwai Kibaki was declared winner, but supporters of his opponent Raila Odinga claimed the votes had been tampered with. International observers later confirmed both parties had manipulated the election.
Violence broke out in the country soon after the disputed Presidential elections, leading to the deaths of some 1,500 people and displacement of over 600,000 people some of who were forcibly evicted from their homes.
2 – Who are the Ocampo Six?
The six people summonsed to appear before the International Criminal Court in The Hague are some of Kenya’s most influential politicians and civil servants.
The group includes deputy prime minister Uhuru Kenyatta who is also the Finance Minister, head of civil service Francis Muthaura, former police chief Hussein Ali, Eldoret North MP and suspended Higher Education minister William Ruto, Tinderet MP and former industrialization minister Henry Kosgey as well as Kass FM radio presenter Joshua arap Sang.
3 – Why is this court case important?
Although Kenya has long been considered an example for relatively peaceful multi-ethnic co-existence, violent clashes have surrounded elections since independence.
The country has a deep-rooted history of granting impunity to those responsible for it. The Constitution that was in place until 2010 had a weak system of checks-and-balances.
People in power could easily enrich themselves whilst not being held accountable for violence.
A new constitution, approved by two thirds of Kenyan voters in a referendum, was adopted in 2010.
It was designed to increase transparency and accountability.
However, some question whether the new constitution is going to change anything at all.
They think the only way of establishing a rule of law and deter the political elite from organizing violence is to break with the political tradition of impunity and set a clear example on an international stage.
4 – Are there any underlying motives?
Two prominent politicians who are to appear before the ICC, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, have announced that they intend to run for president in next years’ general elections.
Other contenders, who were already on the political stage at the time of the 2007 post-election violence, have not been summonsed.
This sparks debate over whether certain presidential candidates are pushing for the ICC case as a sly way to eliminate their political opponents.
5 – What do Kenyans think about the case?
The naming of suspects has raised the political temperature in Kenya. Some MPs suggest that Kenya should withdraw from the Rome Statute, which established the ICC.
The motion was only opposed by one MP, ‘Iron Lady’ Martha Karua, who believes that a local tribunal could be easily manipulated by the political elite and would therefore not be a credible place for the trial.
Former legislator Davies Nakitare bitterly accused the 41 Kenyan MPs accompanying the Ocampo Six to The Hague, suggesting Kenyans would be much better served if they committed their time to tackle the many pending bills.
The Ocampo Six Facebook page, with over 1,300 fans, mainly lists messages of support. ‘May justice prevail’ is the most common wish, with one person asking the Ocampo Six to ‘book a return ticket rather than a one way ticket, just in case’.
6 – Why do they have to come all the way to The Hague for trial?
The ICC is a so-called ‘complementary’ court, meaning that it can judge people only when the state in which the crimes were committed is unable or unwilling to prosecute. Although both president Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga have stated their commitment to fairness and impartiality, there are serious doubts that Kenya can deal with the alleged crimes itself.
Even under the reformed judiciary, Kenya’s political elite remains too powerful to hold their (former) peers accountable for crimes against humanity.
To break with the tradition of continued impunity and ensure a fair trial, the Ocampo Six are in The Hague to face justice.