ICC names high-profile suspects in Kenya's killing spree

15th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

The International Criminal Court Wednesday accused six Kenyans, among them the son of the nation's founder Jomo Kenyatta, of masterminding the 2007-8 post-election violence that claimed 1,500 lives.

They included senior allies of President Mwai Kibaki and his rival Raila Odinga, now his prime minister in a power-sharing government brokered to end the unrest.

Those named include Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, sacked education minister William Ruto -- a declared candidate for the 2012 presidential election -- and former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali.

The others are Francis Muthaura, the head of Kenya's public service, Industrialisation Minister Henry Kosgey and radio executive Joshua arap Sang.

The court's chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters the six "are the most responsible, but of course there are many others... We concentrate on the most responsible... of course, Kenya can decide to prosecute more."

Some of those named promptly proclaimed their innocence, while US President Barack Obama called on all Kenyans to cooperate with any ICC investigation.

"The post-election period of 2007-2008 was one of the most violent periods of the nation's history," said Moreno-Ocampo, a dogged pursuer of rights offenders.

"These were not just crimes against innocent Kenyans," he said. "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."

The ICC said the carnage left more than 1,100 people dead, 3,500 injured and up to 600,000 forcibly displaced.

"During 30 days of violence, there were hundreds of rapes, possibly more, and over 100,000 properties were destroyed in six of Kenya's eight provinces."

The prosecutor indicated that the quest for justice was far from over.

"This is the beginning of a journey, there's a long journey to justice in Kenya," he said.

Kenyatta, the most high-profile name on the list, told reporters in Nairobi that he had never committed any crime.

"I now find myself to be a suspect, I am ready to respond to any allegations made against me," said Kenyatta, a Kibaki ally who is one of the country's most powerful and richest men, and seen as a likely candidate in the 2012 poll.

Muthaura said the "suggestion that I have done anything to warrant criminal investigation is manifest nonsense", but he would cooperate with the court.

Kenya was plunged into violence after the December 27, 2007 general elections in which the then opposition chief Odinga accused Kibaki of having rigged his re-election.

What began as political riots soon turned into ethnic killings targeting Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe.

They launched reprisal attacks in which homes were torched, people hacked to death and some 300,000 forced to flee their homes in the country's worst violence since independence in 1963.

The Hague-based court took charge of trying the key suspects after Nairobi last year failed to set up a tribunal of its own in line with the agreements brokered by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan that ended the chaos.

It said the judges would examine the evidence.

"If they determine that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the six persons named committed the alleged crimes, they will decide on the most appropriate way to ensure their appearance in Court," a statement said.

The ICC, which started operating in the Hague in 2002, is the world's only independent, permanent tribunal with the jurisdiction to try allegations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Obama, whose father was from Kenya, urged the country to cooperate with the ICC, noting that it had made some progress in "moving away from impunity and divisionism".

"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.

© 2010 AFP

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