Four prominent Kenyans – including two presidential contenders – must stand trial for their roles in 2007’s post-election violence, the International Criminal Court ruled today.
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, former minister William Ruto, radio host Joshua arap Sang and former civil service head Francis Muthuara had all appealed charges they incited violence that killed nearly 1,200 people, AFP reported.
The case has riveted Kenyans, who have long held politicians and public figures in high esteem and, some say, allowed them to operate above the law.
The ICC has accused them of crimes against humanity, including inciting murder, rape, forcible transfer and persecution.
Ruto and Sang supported the opposition in 2007, while Kenyatta and Muthaura are aligned with President Mwai Kibaki.
The case is also expected to affect the nation’s presidential elections next year.
The 50-year-old Kenyatta – is the son of Kenya’s founding president – and Ruto were expected to contend for the presidency.
John Githongo, a former journalist appointed to an anti-corruption role in Kenya, told Reuters the ICC’s rejection of the appeal was expected.
“That is not a surprise, so I don’t think they will let this dent their campaign, it will not stop their political work,” he said. “They shall respond to this legal setback by intensifying their campaign, and let the legal process takes its course."
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The charges stem from post-election violence in 2007 that also forced thousands to flee.
It was the most violent period of Kenyan history in decades and revealed ethnic rifts.
What started as political riots escalated into attacks against Kenyatta’s Kikuyu tribe, which later launched a reprisal.
Peter Omondi, who survived the violence, told Reuters he welcomed the ruling as an important step in the process.
“We hope this time to get justice,” he said.
The 4 facing on trial were part of a larger group of six charged by the war crimes court.
The ICC dropped charges against ex-industrialization minister Henry Kosgey and former police Chief Mohammed Hussein Ali.
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