, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 18 – The political future of Eldoret North MP William Ruto hinges on the verdict of the International Criminal Court, which rules by January 23 whether to commit him to trial for the post-election violence of 2008.
Analysts told Capital News that the confirmation of the charges would weigh Ruto down and give his rivals leverage.
Institute for Education in Democracy Executive Director Peter Aling’o said that if the charges against Ruto were confirmed, (and he remained bent on vying for the top seat) then the public scrutiny that would follow could demoralise him. He also argued that Ruto’s political rivals would use the ICC as a campaign tool against him.
“The ICC question will come up during the campaigns and both the common citizen and politicians will subject Ruto to a high level of scrutiny. They will use the ICC to bring him down so Ruto has to have a very concrete strategy to survive,” he said.
Aling’o, on the other hand noted that if the ICC threw out the case against Ruto, his campaign bid would be boosted and he would use the outcome to cast himself as the sacrificial lamb.
“He will be completely free to pursue his ambitions and he will take full advantage of this telling the electorate that he had been innocent all along. This could solidify his presidential bid,” he added.
International Law Expert Godfrey Musila added that the trials, if confirmed, would also have a huge bearing on the ability of the presidential hopeful to effectively run his campaigns.
He explained that if the cases went to trial, each of the suspects would be required to personally attend the court sessions which would hamper Ruto’s campaigns as it would be physically and financially taxing.
“Unlike the confirmation of charges hearings, where the suspects need not attend, they would be required to be in court every day if the charges are confirmed; and the court is not in Nairobi; it is in The Hague,” he noted.
“So when will you be campaigning? Who will be campaigning for you? That practical impediment could have a bearing,” he said.
Aling’o was also of the view that the financial implications of both the trial (if it is confirmed) and the election campaigns could weigh him down and again increase the political heat.
He argued that both Ruto and his colleague Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta would have to use surrogates to run their electoral campaigns if the case goes to trial.
He further noted that if there was a run-off after the next general elections, Ruto and Kenyatta would consider endorsing a common candidate to consolidate their interests, which carried the risk of killing their political ambitions.
He however added that identifying that common surrogate would be an uphill task for the two politicians.
“Both Ruto and Uhuru could decide to give away their bids but pursue them indirectly by picking a common candidate to run for the top seat and cater for their interests and even though they say politicians have nine lives, this could be the end of their political careers,” he argued.
He also observed that Ruto barely has time to think things through. And while Kenyatta already has a solid political vehicle to pursue his bid, Ruto is still trying to put his (political) house in order.
Aling’o explained that political parties would have to prove that they have a national outlook, the requisite membership number and a certificate of good conduct for its candidates before qualifying for full registration, which should be done by the end of April.
“There is hardly time for Ruto to think through the available options. In fact most politicians would rather revitalise the old parties rather than establish new ones because they have to start afresh. Ruto could be forced to eat humble pie and go back to ODM or join Uhuru’s KANU,” he said.
He further argued that there was a 50-50 chance that Ruto would lose his strong hold in the Rift Valley if the ICC decided that he had a case to answer.
Aling’o argued that this would create a leadership vacuum in the Rift Valley that would give South Rift leaders a chance.
“Ruto’s following could wade down but at the same time there are people who truly believe in Ruto as a leader so he can survive the heat,” he said.