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Several cabinet ministers included in those who may face charges for 2007 ethnic violence.
NAIROBI, Kenya — A prosecutor for the International Criminal Court accused six high-ranking Kenyans of masterminding the political and ethnic violence that wracked the country after disputed elections in 2007.
Three cabinet ministers and a former police chief are among the suspects accused by Luis Moreno-Ocampo of “massive crimes” in an announcement at the court's headquarters in The Hague.
“The post election period of 2007-2008 was one of the most violent periods of the nation’s history,” Moreno-Ocampo said. “These were not just crimes against innocent Kenyans. They were crimes against humanity as a whole.
“By breaking the cycle of impunity for massive crimes, victims and their families can have justice. And Kenyans can pave the way to peaceful elections in 2012,” he said.
Moreno-Ocampo said that eight months of investigations revealed that the six men bore the most responsibility for the violence in which more than 1,100 people were killed and which brought Kenya to the brink of civil war.
Judges at the International Criminal Court will now decide whether to issue a summons or arrest warrant, or to reject the prosecutor’s case. Moreno-Ocampo urged the suspects to appear before the court voluntarily.
U.S. President Barack Obama promptly urged the accused Kenyans to cooperate with the court.
“I urge all of Kenya’s leaders, and the people whom they serve, to cooperate fully with the ICC investigation and remain focused on implementation of the reform agenda and the future of your nation,” Obama said in a statement.
He added that Kenya was, “moving away from impunity and divisionism toward an era of accountability and equal opportunity.”
“The path ahead is not easy, but I believe that the Kenyan people have the courage and resolve to reject those who would drag the country back into the past and rob Kenyans of the singular opportunity that is before them to realize the country's vast potential," he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding father and scion of a powerful political dynasty, is the most senior politician named.
The suspended minister for higher education, William Ruto, was also named along with former police chief Hussein Ali, Minister for Industrialization Henry Kosgey, Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura and Joshua Sang, a radio journalist.
Kenyatta quickly declared his innocence after the announcement.
“My record is clear and it remains very clear that I have never committed any crime,” Kenyatta said in Nairobi. “I now find myself to be a suspect, I am ready to respond to any allegations made against me.”
Ruto, the most powerful political leader in the Rift Valley where the violence first erupted, also said he was innocent.
“My conscience is clear,” he said.
Sang, operations director of the Kass FM radio station, accused Moreno-Ocampo of acting, “like a politician and not like a prosecutor” in announcing the charges.