THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor named six Kenyan leaders Wednesday as the purported orchestrators of violence after the country’s 2007 election that left more than 1,000 people dead.
Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo wants judges to charge six Kenyan leaders, including the son of the country’s founding father, with crimes against humanity including murder, rape and torture. The violence sparked over who would take the presidency and then took on ethnic overtones. But it is the case against former Higher Education Minister William Ruto that could cause the most violent backlash in Kenya.
Kenya‘s police commissioner, Mathew K. Iteere, warned that “criminal elements” were looking to use Mr. Moreno Ocampo’s announcement as an opportunity to break the law and vowed to crack down on any violence.
Mr. Moreno Ocampo claimed that Mr. Ruto began plotting attacks on supporters of President Mwai Kibaki a year before the election and worked together with Minister for Industrialization Henry Kosgey and radio broadcaster Joshua Sang to coordinate a campaign of killing and forced deportations in the Rift Valley.
In a separate case, Mr. Moreno Ocampo charged Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta — son of Kenyan independence hero and founding president Jomo Kenyatta — alongside Cabinet secretary Francis Muthaura and former police commissioner Maj. Gen. Mohammed Hussein Ali with murder, deportation, persecution, rape and inhumane acts purportedly committed in retaliation against supporters of Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
“These six are the persons most responsible according to our evidence,” Mr. Moreno Ocampo told reporters in The Hague. He asked judges to confirm the charges and order the six suspects to turn themselves in to the war crimes tribunal.
Judges will study the prosecutor’s evidence and likely make their decision early next year.
Deadly clashes erupted after Kenya‘s disputed 2007 presidential election, including indiscriminate bow and arrow, machete and gunfire attacks that killed more than 1,000.
In the U.S., President Obama, the son of a Kenyan, urged the country’s leaders to cooperate with the court.
“Kenya is turning a page in its history, moving away from impunity and divisionism toward an era of accountability and equal opportunity,” Mr. Obama said in a statement.
Ethnic tensions in Kenya have simmered for decades, with much of the violence traced back to the desire for land. After independence in 1963, Jomo Kenyatta sent masses of his own Kikuyu group to occupy land in Western Kenya native to the Kalenjin tribe.
The newcomers prospered, growing into the most powerful of Kenya‘s 42 ethnic groups, running businesses and politics. But favoritism shown to Kikuyus fueled resentments.
Kikuyus in the Rift Valley were targeted in ethnic clashes during elections in 1992 and 1997, when then-President Daniel arap Moi sponsored gangs from his Kalenjin tribe to intimidate his opponents.
Three of the six suspects Mr. Moreno-Ocampo named come from the Kalenjin tribe, the group that Ruto is a leader of. The Kalenjins dominate the Rift Valley and the reaction to the charges there will be key to Kenya‘s peace in coming days.
President Mwai Kibaki said Wednesday the government had intensified security around the country to protect lives and property of all citizens. Mr. Kibaki also said the government is committed to establishing a local tribunal to deal with postelection violence, an idea that has resurfaced only this week as the Moreno-Ocampo announcement loomed.
“As a nation we must also focus on the need for national healing and reconciliation. This is paramount as we move forward on the path of national peace and unity,” the Kibaki statement said. “I appeal to Kenyans to remain calm. The government will remain vigilant and ensure that the rights of its citizens and the dignity of the nation are upheld.”
Mr. Moreno Ocampo said he expects the suspects to surrender voluntarily. He also asked them to not contact each other, to not try to interfere with the investigation or trial, or commit new crimes.
The clashes erupted along tribal lines following an announcement that Kibaki — a Kikuyu — had won a vote that opponents said was rigged. A bloodbath was stopped only after former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan mediated a peace agreement that created a coalition government in which Odinga was appointed prime minister.
The clashes severely damaged Kenya‘s reputation. The East African country has the region’s largest economy and has long been regarded as a haven of stability in a region roiled by war.
Outside Kenya‘s parliament building, two members of parliament said Mr. Moreno Ocampo’s list should have included even higher-ranking leaders. Some Kenyans feel the investigation should have also examined the roles played by Kenya‘s president and prime minister.
“Those people who are named by Ocampo are the messengers. We need the real masters.” said parliamentarian Samuel Kazungu, the assistant minister for medical services.
“The process Ocampo was involved with was a political one rather than a legal one. Your list is incomplete, we know who called for mass action, we know who said Kenya will be made ungovernable,” said parliamentarian Aden Bare Duale.
“We followed strictly the evidence … we are not focussed on political responsibility,” he said. “I have no evidence allowing me to go further.”
Associated Press writers Jason Straziuso, Katharine Houreld, Malkhadir M. Muhumed and Tom Odula in Nairobi contributed to this report.