Kenya’s Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta Starts ICC Pre-Trial

Kenyan Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and two officials appeared at the International Criminal Court in a hearing to confirm charges of crimes against humanity committed during violence after the 2007 election.

“The confirmation of charges hearing is neither a trial before trial, or a mini-trial nor a first-instance court,” Presiding Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova of Bulgaria said. Its goal is to determine “whether there’s sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that the suspects committed the crimes charged.”

Besides Kenyatta, 49, those appearing at The Hague-based court included former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali, 55, and Head of the Cabinet Francis Muthaura, 64. The hearing is scheduled to conclude Oct. 5.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he can prove the accused are linked to crimes including murder, rape, forced displacement, and persecution. A similar pre-trial hearing for three other Kenyan suspects, including lawmakers William Ruto and Henry Kosgey and radio presenter Joshua arap Sang, was held earlier this month and results haven’t been announced. All six men deny the accusations.

Post-Election Violence

Kenya was racked by two months of violence sparked by allegations of vote-rigging by supporters of then-opposition leader Raila Odinga, a Luo by tribe who heads the Orange Democratic Movement, in the December 2007 presidential election. The fighting left 1,500 people dead.

The unrest subsided after President Mwai Kibaki, leader of the Party for National Unity and an ethnic Kikuyu, signed a power-sharing accord that installed Odinga as prime minister of East Africa’s largest economy.

The agreement included a commitment to bring the perpetrators to justice. Still, several attempts to create a dedicated local tribunal into the violence have been blocked by lawmakers.

Moreno-Ocampo alleges that supporters of Odinga’s ODM party mainly from the Kalenjin tribe, led by Ruto and his deputy Kosgey, carried out attacks against the Kikuyu, Kamba and Kisii people, whom they believed were supporters of Kibaki’s PNU party. Sang is accused of spreading hate messages and inflaming tensions.

Execution of Plan

In retaliation, Kenyatta and Muthaura allegedly executed a plan formulated before the election in which the Mungiki criminal gang attacked perceived allies of the ODM in the towns of Naivasha and Nakuru in the Rift Valley.

The main targets were people belonging to the Luo, Luhya and Kalenjin ethnic groups, according to a case information sheet on the ICC’s website. The attacks, which occurred during the last week of January 2008, left as many as 152 people dead, displaced more than 10,000, led to dozens of reported cases of rape, and at least nine instances of forced circumcision.

The Mungiki was enlisted to carry out the attacks in exchange “for an end to government repression and protection of the Mungiki’s interests,” the ICC statement said.

The outlawed Mungiki group is notorious for extorting money from bus and taxi drivers, kidnapping and murder.

Kenyatta allegedly helped organize meetings with Mungiki and PNU members to plot the attacks in the Rift Valley and contributed funding. Muthaura led some of the planning sessions and, in his position as chairman of Kenya’s National Security and Advisory Committee, ordered the police not to interfere, an order which Ali upheld, according to the ICC case sheet.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sarah McGregor in Nairobi at  smcgregor5@bloomberg.net; Jurjen van de Pol in The Hague at jvandepol@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.

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