Frustration, celebration as Uhuru trial stalls

September 5, 2014 4:06 pm
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On Friday, as news emerged that the crimes against humanity trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta could be indefinitely postponed/FILE
On Friday, as news emerged that the crimes against humanity trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta could be indefinitely postponed/FILE
NAIROBI, Sept 5 – For more than five years the people of Kenya’s vast Rift Valley, one of the hardest hit areas in the ethnic violence that followed contested 2007 elections, have waited for justice.

On Friday, as news emerged that the crimes against humanity trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta could be indefinitely postponed, those who suffered during the weeks of bloodshed said gloomily they had resigned themselves to simply trying to forget the “dark chapter” of their past.

“For years we have waited for the elusive justice after we were attacked,” said Amos Otieno, whose younger brother was killed during the clashes in the farming town of Navaisha, 90 kilometres (55 miles) north of Nairobi.

Battles there saw rivals fighting with machetes, when communities divided along tribal lines and turned on each other after disputed elections.

“Our fears have been confirmed, that there is justice for the poor and justice for the rich,” Otieno added.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, on Friday asked judges to indefinitely postpone the Kenyatta trial that had been due to begin next month, saying Nairobi was refusing to cooperate in providing evidence demanded.

Bitter memories are still fresh from 2007, when elections escalated into ethnic conflict in which more than 1,200 people were killed, violence for which Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were charged with crimes against humanity at The Hague-based ICC. Both reject the charges.

Elizabeth Kemunto, 57, was forced to flee her home in rural Nakuru county during the 2007 violence, living for years in basic camp. Her husband was killed in the violence.

“The best thing for our country is to now move forward. I feel disappointed because Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda personally visited our camp in Nakuru, and promised she would deliver justice to us. This now looks unlikely,” Kemunto said.

– Perpetrators ‘will go unpunished’ –

Ruto’s trial continues, but Kemunto said that case also should stop.

“It would allow the country to completely heal from that dark chapter in our history,” Kemunto added.

“I forgave the people who killed my husband despite the fact that he had not wronged them – we can all forgive each other and move forward peacefully.”

On Friday, Kenyatta was touring a military post in northern Kenya. There was no immediate reaction from his spokesman.

Others celebrated what they saw as the effective collapse of the case.

“All along we have said that Uhuru Kenyatta was innocent in connection with the violence, and the real perpetrators were not arrested,” said James Mbugua, who fled violence in the western Eldoret region.

“Finally the real truth has come out, and those with ill motives against the president have been shamed.”

Frustration was visible among some, such as Aloyce Ochieng, who lost all his belongings during the fighting in Naivasha. He blamed former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo for a “shoddy job” in gathering evidence.

“But all along we knew that it would be hard to pin a sitting president,” Ochieng admitted.

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