THE HAGUE, Aug 31 – A former Kenyan minister faces a war crimes court hearing Thursday to determine whether he and other officials should stand trial for masterminding his country’s deadly post-election violence in 2007-08.
A potential presidential candidate in 2012, William Ruto is due to appear at the International Criminal Court with two other officials, two days after the court denied Kenya’s appeal to have the cases declared inadmissible.
Ruto, who served as agriculture and then as higher education minister, faces charges of crimes against humanity along with former industrialisation minister Henry Kosgey and radio executive Joshua arap Sang in the dock.
All three men supported then opposition candidate Raila Odinga, now Kenya’s prime minister, in the disputed December 2007 polls. While free, they are currently subjected to subpoenas.
The hearings, during which prosecutors will try to convince the court they have enough evidence to go to trial, are scheduled to run until September 12.
Defence lawyers presented a list of 48 witnesses but the court only allowed two witnesses each.
A second set of hearings will begin on September 21 for three other former officials, including Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s founding president and the country’s finance minister.
Kenyatta was long seen as likely to run in next year’s presidential election but he has refused to give up his ministerial post although his chances of running a campaign from the ICC dock look dim.
Ruto, for his part, was suspended from his ministry on unrelated graft charges last year and eventually dropped from the ministerial line-up altogether in August.
Kenyatta will appear before ICC judges along with two other allies of Odinga’s rival in the 2007 elections – Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki – public service head Francis Muthaura and former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali.
The charges against the six men include murder, deportation, rape, inhumane acts, persecution and torture.
Kenya was plunged into violence after the December 27, 2007, general elections in which then opposition chief Odinga accused Kibaki of having rigged his way to re-election.
What began as political riots soon turned into ethnic killings.
They launched reprisal attacks in which homes were torched and people hacked to death in the country’s worst violence since independence in 1963.
Prosecutors said some 1,300 people were killed during the post-election unrest and more than 600,000 were displaced.