THE HAGUE, Sept 19 – Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta faces a war crimes court hearing Wednesday to determine whether he and two others should stand trial for masterminding Kenya’s deadly post-election violence in 2007-08.
A potential presidential candidate and son of Kenya’s founding father, Uhuru Kenyatta, 49, is the east African country’s highest-ranking official to face a three-judge bench before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
With him will be Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki’s right-hand man, Francis Muthaura, 64, and ex-police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali, 55, who also face crimes against humanity charges for their role in Kenya’s worst unrest since independence in 1963.
Prosecutors now have to convince the court they have enough evidence to take the three — who are still free — to trial for allegedly fomenting brutal attacks against perceived opposition supporters in the wake of Kenya’s controversial elections in December 2007.
The prosecutor’s office said 1,133 people died, 3,561 were injured and more than 663,000 displaced as a result of clashes between supporters of Kibaki’s ruling party and of his then opponent and now Prime Minister Raila Odinga, when political riots turned into ethnic killings, sparking further reprisals.
Kenyatta, Muthaura and Ali, all supporters of Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) are suspected of designing and implementing a “common plan” to attack members of Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in what prosecutors called “one of the most violent periods in Kenya’s history.”
In order “to keep the PNU in power by any means necessary” said prosecutors, the three men used Kenya’s underground criminal organisation, the Mungiki, as well as young PNU supporters.
Kenyatta who allegedly maintained close ties with the criminal group since 2000, planned the attacks, mobilised, armed and financed Mungiki members and pro-PNU youths, the prosecutor said.
Muthaura in his former position as chairman of Kenya’s National Security Committee ensured the attackers had safe passage and would not be hindered or arrested by police, led by ex-general Mohammed Hussein Ali.
The three are a second group of six senior Kenyans to appear before the Hague-based court after ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in December 2010 asked judges to issue summonses against them for crimes against humanity.
Earlier this month two ex-Kenyan ministers William Ruto and Henry Kosgey as well as radio executive Joshua arap Sang also appeared to see if they could be taken to trial for their part in the violence.
The men, all supporters of Odinga’s ODM are accused for their part in attacks on PNU members in the Rift Valley. They all protested their innocence.
Kenya last month lost an appeal to stop the ICC from trying the six men, with the court turning down a request to have them in the dock in Nairobi.