Kenya’s Vice President, William Ruto, is facing trial at the International Criminal Court for allegations of orchestrating violence in the aftermath of his country’s 2007 elections. Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda alleges that Ruto planned violence over an 18-month period prior to the elections, which contributed to the eruption of violence that left 1,200 people dead and 600,000 displaced, including significant violence against women.
The Guardian reports Bensouda telling the court: “This was a carefully planned and executed plan of violence – Ruto’s ultimate goal was to seize political power for himself and his party in the event he could not do so via the ballot box.” Ruto is reported to have smiled during proceedings as he plead not guilty to murder, persecution and displacement.
Ruto is the first serving official to face charges at the ICC and will be joined in the Hague in November by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who will face a separate trial. Ruto (of the Kalenjin ethnic group) and Kenyatta (a Kikuyu) were on opposing sides of the December 2007 election and are accused of exploiting ethnic tensions and fueling violence between each other’s groups. Kenyatta has also denied allegations that he orchestrated violence. On September 5, Kenya’s parliament passed a motion to withdraw from the ICC. The court has said that both cases will continue regardless of Kenya’s withdrawal.
The post-election brutality included widespread gender violence in an effort to terrorize the rival ethnic community. Human Rights Watch reports evidence of widespread rape, sexual mutilation and forced circumcision against women and men.
The late Laureate Wangari Maathai spoke out strongly in 2010 on the importance of ICC investigations in preventing further violence in Kenya:
“It is almost impossible to bring about peace, justice and reconciliation without stopping impunity and punishing the perpetrators of this horrendous episode in our history…The ICC represents the desires and values of Africans who value the rule of law and an end to impunity.”
Turning Pebbles: Evading Accountability for Post-Election Violence in Kenya, Human Rights Watch, 2011.
Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto denies murder at ICC, The Guardian, September 11, 2013.
Kenya MPs vote to withdraw from ICC, BBC News Africa, September 5, 2013.