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:

So how might the ICC ruling affect alliance building ahead of the elections? Firstly, the ruling will most likely bring Kenyatta and Ruto closer, at least in the short term. While for now the two have self-interested reasons to be together, it is not guaranteed that their grassroots supporters will play along in the long run. After all the question of land, which was at the heart of the clashes in the Rift Valley between Kalenjin supporters of Odinga/Ruto and Kikuyu supporters of Kibaki/Uhuru, remains unresolved. …

Secondly, there is speculation that should the two be barred from running for president they might settle for a compromise candidate in the likes of Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, MP Eugene Wamalwa or former cabinet minister Raphael Tuju. But such an eventuality is also fraught with uncertainties. For one, it is unclear that the old establishment behind Kibaki and Kenyatta would settle for the untested hands of the two newcomers – Wamalwa and Tuju. Nobody, especially if you may have some ill-gotten wealth stashed away, wants surprises in the presidency. In addition, many of them already deeply distrust Musyoka whom they see as an opportunist out to benefit from Kenyatta and Ruto’s woes. In the end they may settle for the devil they know, Mr. Odinga. It is telling that a section of the Central Kenya business elite, Mr. Uhuru’s backyard, have started warming up to Raila.

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.


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  1. Why is Peter Kenneth appearing anywhere in the entire analysis?It is my strong believe that Peter Kenneth will be the biggest beneficiary if Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto are barred from running.In fact,he is the real threat Raila’s chances of winning the coming presidential elections


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