Yesterday, the International Criminal Court announced that it will move forward with trials for four suspects in cases stemming from Kenya’s 2007/2008 post-election violence. The four suspects going to trial are Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Francis Muthaura, and Joshua arap Sang. In the cases of two other suspects, Henry Kosgey and Mohammad Hussein, the pre-trial chamber found that there is not enough evidence to move to trial.
Given the elections this year (or maybe early next year), the ICC trials are certain to have political ramifications. Apparently Kenya’s new constitution is unclear on whether Kenyatta and Ruto are legally allowed to run for president. Both have reiterated that they plan to stand as candidates. If they survive the legal hurdles, coalition politics may lead to one or both dropping out anyway.
Ken Opalo’s piece on African Arguments provides the best political analysis I have seen of this so far. One excerpt:
Although the ICC trials will have their most noticeable impact on the presidential elections, Keith Somerville discusses (also on African Arguments) the charges against radio broadcaster Joshua arap Sang. The use of radio in Kenya’s post-election violence was not as direct it was in Rwanda’s genocide, but there are still concerns about whether broadcasters incited violence in 2007/2008 or have been a threat to peace more recently. As Somerville points out, it’s especially hard to assign accountability for inciting violence when a media actor uses metaphorical language of disputed meaning (e.g. “the people of the milk should clear the weeds from the grass”). Sang’s trial will have ramifications for radio and other media going forward.
For more commentary on the political implications of the ICC trials, see Kenya’s The Nation newspaper. And for a thorough history of the 2007-2008 post-election violence and its political fallout, I recommend the International Crisis Group’s recent report.