NAIROBI, Jun 12 – Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Tuesday that he supported a decision by the International Criminal Court to put two of his rivals on trial after the elections.
The ICC plans to start hearings against four Kenyans over 2007 post-election violence next March, the same month the east African country holds presidential polls.
Among the four are two of Odinga’s chief rivals in that election – Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former minister William Ruto.
An ICC hearing after March 4 – the presumed date of the presidential election in the east African country – would mean both war crimes suspects, Kenyatta and Ruto, would be able to run against Odinga.
Odinga, addressing foreign correspondents on Tuesday, said this would be good for democracy.
“All those competing for the top seat need to be on the ballot,” he said. “This will give Kenyans a right to choose their preferred leaders.”
His opponents have in the past suggested Odinga was using the ICC proceedings to eliminate the challenge posed by Kenyatta and Ruto.
But the premier pledged Tuesday that “there will be no reason for anyone to say that Raila (Odinga) prevented them from vying for an elective seat.”
Odinga was runner-up in the 2007 presidential polls, losing out to current President Mwai Kibaki. The election was highly contested with both camps trading allegations of rigging and fraud.
A political impasse led to violence that left some 1,200 people dead and 600,000 displaced – Kenya’s worst bloodshed since independence in 1963.
The violence ended after the formation of a government that accommodated politicians from both camps.
Odinga has now presented himself as a presidential candidate, while Kibaki is constitutionally barred from running for another term.
The ICC must announce the trial dates for the four Kenyans before it goes on recess after July 13.
Defence and prosecution lawyers for Kenyatta and Ruto this week agreed to start off their hearings in March. Prosecutors demanded a “written undertaking” that they would not skip the trial.
The other two men charged are Francis Muthaura and Joshua arap Sang.
Prosecutor Adesola Adeboyejo said Tuesday that the two separate trials for the four be held at roughly the same time.
One trial if for Kenyatta and Muthaura, who supported the then ruling Party of National Unity; the other for Ruto and Sang, who backed the opposition Orange Democratic Movement.
“We propose that the dates for trial be synchronised as closely as possible for both trials… to avoid tensions that would arise if one of the cases is moving faster than the other,” Adeboyejo said.