Kenyatta Can Run for Presidency After Court Declines Ruling

Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding president who’s due to go on trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, was cleared to run for the presidency by the country’s High Court.

The court “lacks jurisdiction” to rule whether Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto are eligible to stand for office next month, Judge Hellen Omondi, reading the ruling of a five-member bench, said today in the capital, Nairobi. It’s the “exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.” Their ICC trials are scheduled to begin in April.

The ruling boosts the campaign of Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister, and Ruto. The Hague-based court has accused them of orchestrating clashes in the ethnic violence that erupted after disputed elections in 2007 when more than 1,100 people died, 350,000 others fled their homes and growth in East Africa’s largest economy slowed. They both deny any wrongdoing.

Four non-governmental organizations filed a petition contending that Kenyatta and Ruto’s candidacies are in breach of Kenya’s constitution, which says holders of public office must demonstrate “personal integrity, competence and suitability.”

Kenyatta, who’s running a close second to Prime Minister Raila Odinga according to opinion polls, and Ruto haven’t been convicted of a crime and are presumed innocent until proven guilty, Judge Mbogholi Msagha said in the ruling.

Ruling Welcomed

Kenyans will vote in a run-off if no single presidential candidate garners more than 50 percent in the initial round on March 4.

Odinga said he welcomed the ruling.

“I have repeatedly said that my main competitor should have the opportunity to face me in a free and fair election whose outcome is determined by the people of Kenya,” he said in an e-mailed statement.

The violence after the 2007 vote stopped after former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan mediated a power-sharing agreement between Odinga, then the opposition leader, and President Mwai Kibaki, who’s retiring in line with the constitutional term-term limit.

The court judgment builds momentum for Kenyatta and Ruto in the race, Katwa Kigen, Ruto’s lawyer, said by phone from Nairobi.

“It was the last issue between them and the elections,” Kigen said. Kenyatta has repeatedly said he can fight the ICC case and perform presidential duties.

The ruling marks the “official death” of Chapter Six of the constitution, which spells out the leadership and integrity principles of elected and appointed government officials, Lempaa Suyianka, a lawyer representing the International Center for Policy and Conflict that was part of the petition, said in a phone interview after the ruling.

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