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Several cabinet ministers included in those who may face charges for 2007 ethnic violence.
Ruto, Kosgey and Sang are ethnic Kalenjins and during the 2007 election were supporters of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). They are accused of planning, organising and funding attacks on members of the Kikuyu ethnic group seen as supporters of the ruling Party on National Unity (PNU).
In one of the worst massacres, 35 Kikuyu people were burned to death in a church in Kiambaa in the Rift Valley.
Moreno-Ocampo said that retaliatory attacks were organized by the other three men: Kenyatta, Muthaura and Ali.
Muthaura, chairman of the National Security Advisory Committee, “authorized the police to use excessive force against civilians,” Moreno-Ocampo said. Ali is accused of implementing the order that led to the deaths of at least 480 civilians, according to a commission of inquiry into the post-election violence.
Kenyatta is accused of being “the focal point” between the government and a Kikuyu criminal gang, known as the Mungiki, which was mobilized to launch deadly retaliatory strikes against Luos, the tribe of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is also acts as the head of the ODM. In one such attack, 19 Luos were burned to death in a house in the town of Naivasha.
“These are not the only people [responsible]; they are the most important,” Moreno-Ocampo said.
Kenyan activists welcomed the court's long-awaited announcement.
“This is massive,” said Mwalimu Mati, director of Mars Group, a governance watchdog. “Since independence we’ve had bouts of political-ethnic conflict and nobody has been punished. For once, and probably for the first time, senior political figures have to contend with the law.”
“It is both a great day and a very sad day,” said John Githongo, chief executive of Inuka Kenya Trust, a civil society organisation. “Great in that it is the beginning of our fight against high level impunity, and sad in that we could not do it ourselves as Kenyans.”
By Wednesday evening it seemed that fears of a violent reaction to the court's announcement had not been realized. In Eldoret, Ruto’s hometown and epicenter of the election killings, there was calm.
“As I talk to you right now I am on the roof of the highest building in Eldoret and I can see people moving about as if nothing has happened,” Ken Wafula, a leading local human rights activist, told GlobalPost. “This is one of the greatest steps the country has made to end the culture of impunity, political violence and negative ethnicity.”