ICC Prosecutor Names Six Suspects in Kenyan Violence

The International Criminal Court requested charges of crimes against humanity be filed against six Kenyans, including Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, over their alleged role in post-election violence in 2008.

Other summoned include Industrialization Minister Henry Kosgey and suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto, ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters today at the court in The Hague. Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura, former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali and Joshua Arap Sang, a radio presenter, were also identified as suspects, he said.

“The post-election period of 2007-2008 was one of the most violent periods of the nation’s history,” Moreno-Ocampo said. “These were not just crimes against innocent Kenyans. They were crimes against humanity as a whole.”

Kenyatta, who is also deputy prime minister, and Muthaura said they were innocent.

Fighting flared between ethnic groups in Kenya following a disputed December 2007 presidential vote, leaving 1,500 people dead and forcing 300,000 to flee their homes. The clashes abated after President Mwai Kibaki, an ethnic Kikuyu, signed a power-sharing accord in February 2008 with then-opposition leader Raila Odinga, of the Luo group, who was named prime minister.

The Kenyan shilling weakened as much as 1.1 percent after the announcement and was trading at 80.65 per dollar at 6:01 p.m. in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. A close at that level would be the weakest since Dec. 1, according to Bloomberg data.

Obama Urges Cooperation

U.S. President Barack Obama urged Kenyan leaders to cooperate fully and to carry on with changes they promised in the power-sharing agreement, which includes overhauling the police and courts and curbing corruption.

Kenyan security forces have stepped up patrols across the country and residents of the East African nation should “remain calm,” Kibaki said today in an e-mailed statement. The ICC’s call for actions to be taken against the six suspects are “prejudicial, preemptive and against the rules of natural justice, he said.

“The people who have been mentioned have not yet been fully investigated as the pre-trial process in The Hague has only but began,” Kibaki said. “They therefore cannot be judged as guilty until the charges are confirmed by the court.”

Kenya, the world’s biggest exporter of black tea and Europe’s largest source of cut flowers, is East Africa’s biggest economy. Growth slowed to 1.7 percent in 2008, from 7.1 percent a year earlier, as tourism, agricultural output and investment declined because of the violence.

Economic Impact

The announcement implicating the finance minister in post-election violence is unlikely to affect Kenya’s economy, said Macharia Munene, professor of history and international relations at the U.S. International University in Nairobi.

“There may be a small dent but as a whole the economy won’t suffer because this isn’t a surprise,” Munene said in a phone interview. “This economy is very vibrant and it’s not because of politicians. It has a momentum of its own.”

The ICC said that in the first case, Ruto, Kosgey and Sang are accused by the prosecution office of being among the key planners and organizers of crimes against supporters of Kibaki’s Party of National Unity, or PNU.

In the second case, Muthaura and Ali allegedly authorized the police to use excessive force and helped facilitate attacks against allies of Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement, also known as the ODM, the ICC said. Kenyatta is accused of mobilizing the Mungiki criminal gang to assault ODM supporters, it said.

Grounds For Charges

ICC judges will now review evidence submitted by the prosecutors, the court said. If they determine there are grounds for charges to go ahead, they will “decide on the most appropriate way to ensure their appearance in court,” it said.

Kenyatta, the son of Jomo Kenyatta, leader of the country’s independence struggle against Britain and first president, called for the ICC process to be “free and fair” and said he would prove his innocence. “We await the decision of the judges,” he told reporters in Nairobi.

Muthaura rejected proposed ICC charges. “The suggestion that I have done anything to warrant criminal investigation is manifest nonsense,” he told reporters in the city.

Domestic Tribunal

Kibaki said the government remains committed to establishing a domestic tribunal to deal with suspects linked to the violence. The administration’s attempts to handle cases within Kenya have been blocked by lawmakers, who rejected two proposed laws to create a local court. That prompted Moreno-Ocampo to open an investigation.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights released a report two years ago naming 219 suspects of post-election violence including members of parliament and Cabinet ministers.

Kenya is due to hold its next general elections in 2012. Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who mediated a peace accord that ended the 2008 violence and is monitoring its implementation, has said bringing instigators of the fighting to trial is necessary to avoid a repeat of the clashes.

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