ISSN 2330-717X

Kenya: Caution Needed In ICC Proceedings To Avoid Ethnic Tensions


While the International Criminal Court (ICC) has a chance to inaugurate a new era of accountability in Kenya, misperceptions could also amplify ethnic tensions ahead of the 2012 elections if its work and limitations are not better explained to the public.

Kenya : Impact of the ICC Proceedings, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, warns that although the mayhem following the disputed December 2007 presidential elections seemed an exception, violence has been a common feature of the country’s politics since the introduction of a multiparty system in 1991.

To provide justice to the victims, combat pervasive political impunity and deter future violence, the ICC brought two cases against six suspects who allegedly bore the greatest responsibility. There are fears that if charges are dropped for suspects of one ethnicity and confirmed for those of others, ethnic tensions could increase sharply, regardless of the legal merits, noted Crisis Group.

“The ICC proceedings will have enormous political consequences for both the 2012 elections and the country’s stability”, said Abdullahi Boru Halakhe, Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa Analyst. “Developments in the court will not be viewed by many Kenyans simply as legal decisions, and the timing and framing of proceedings and rulings will inevitably have an impact in heightening or damping down tensions”.

Political jockeying and alliance formation have already begun, in part as a response to the ICC proceedings. The two most prominent suspects, Uhuru Kenyatta (the deputy prime minister, finance minister and son of Kenya’s first president) and William Ruto (the former agriculture and higher education minister), as well as the vice president and many other like-minded politicians, are exploring the possibility of uniting behind one candidate. The ICC is expected to announce in late January whether it has confirmed charges against each of the six suspects. If the court, as is expected, hands down a decision on all charges on the same day, this could be a crucial step to help defuse a rise in ethnic tensions.

But if the ICC process is to contribute to the deterrence of future political violence in Kenya, both the court and its friends must explain its work and limitations better to the public. While still popular, approval of the ICC has been declining, due to deft media manipulation by the suspects and their lawyers. In order to counter misrepresentations of the court’s decisions, the ICC and its supporters, including civil society and other friends, should conduct greater outreach to explain its mandate, workings and process.

Furthermore, Kenya’s government must complement the international process with a national process aimed at countering impunity and punishing ethnic-hate speech and violence. It should direct the deputy public prosecutor to investigate and prosecute in domestic courts other individuals suspected of involvement in the post-election violence. It should also support Willy Mutunga, the new chief justice, in his efforts to reform the judiciary and restore public faith in Kenya’s system.

“To many Kenyans, the ICC’s involvement sends a signal that entrenched impunity for wealthy and powerful politicians will not be permitted to endure”, says EJ Hogendoorn, Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa Project Director. “For a political class used to impunity, this is a likely game changer for how politics are conducted in the country”.

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2 thoughts on “Kenya: Caution Needed In ICC Proceedings To Avoid Ethnic Tensions

  • January 12, 2012 at 11:24 am
    Permalink a Kenyan and I would like to say that if ICC will not confirm charges for the big two Uhuru and Ruto then its a signal of repeat of violence after announcement of 2012 electoral results.The two are very well known of what they did in 2007-8 and if they wont go for a full trial then Kenyans will rise up to deliver justice with force at any cost.
    The two are lords of impunity,tribalists and corrupt figures who can commit the same killings they did in 2007-8 and this time round they will do it in a very professional manner concealing evidences so that they do not go through the path which they are currently.
    I pray for ICC to confirm charges and have them imprisoned for the not less than 30 years.Innocent Luo and Luhyas were cut into pieces by Mungiki who were funded by Uhuru in Nakuru and Naivasha.
    Oh my Lord save our beloved Kenya from murderers!

  • January 15, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    This is quite twisted. In fact, the chance of violence of the charges are confirmed for the 2, especially for Ruto are much higher.
    It is unfortunate but most of the Kalenjin and Kikuyu in Kenya view the PM Raila Odinga as having a hand in and sending evidence to Moreno Ocampo in an attempt to have them held at the Hague so as to smoothen his campaign for the office of the President of Kenya.
    For this reason, the residents of Rift Valley that support Ruto and those in cosmopolitan Nairobi that support Uhuru are at the edge of a violent eruption with members of Raila’s community.
    Confirmation of charges in my view will lead to bloodshed aimed at the Luo community.
    The fact that the Kipsigiis where Henry Kosgei is from borders South Nyanza, home to the Luo, is reason to worry. The Luo must travel through Rift valley going to or from Kisumu. This corridor will most likely be a no-go zone for the people from the lakeside if charges are confirmed.
    The hate is already rising and is clearly palpable. The Kalenjin have already proven themselves to be efficiently murderous when they believe they are being persecuted.
    In Nairobi, the chances of Kibera where a large number of Luo are squatters is bound to burn.
    The best bet for peace is the charges not being confirmed.


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