EXCLUSIVE: Collapse of ICC case 'is a reason for fear of violence ahead of Kenya polls'

Nairobi - Fears of violence in Kenya’s upcoming election could partly be attributed to the collapse of the International Criminal Court’s case against President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, who are running mates in Tuesday’s election for a second term.

David Ogutu, an opposition councillor candidate in Kibera, Nairobi, said during the elections in 2013 the case at The Hague for crimes against humanity for the 2007-2008 post-election violence against the two was still ongoing. "People felt the only way justice could be found was at The Hague," he said.

Now, however, he said, the victims had lost hope for justice. "When people are saying they want to pull out from the ICC, what are they telling us?"

Kenya was one of the drivers of the campaign for African Union member states to withdraw from the ICC, with South Africa being one of its chief allies in this campaign. South Africa has intentions to withdraw but had to abandon a previous attempt because the correct procedures weren’t followed.

Internal actors and forces 

George Morara, vice chairperson of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, agreed that the ICC issue played a role in why people were fearing violence.

"The ICC case hanging over the head of some of the leading contenders in 2013 was a deterrent to an extent, although some of the candidates also used it as a bargaining chip to rally their base, so it was a double-edged sword," he told News24 on Sunday.

Kenyatta and Ruto teamed up to rally considerable support on the ground, proclaiming the ICC was an imperialist court that was imposed on Kenya.

Morara said the case was also a deterrent to violence, "because people lived with the prospects of being taken outside Kenya's territory for international justice".

The case against the two has since collapsed, however, for a lack of evidence.

"Therefore there is a sense that internal actors and forces were able to triumph against the international community and that might make some of them more emboldened in the way that they are going to act," Morara said.

Previous election 

Another issue that raised the possibility of violence was the issue of incumbency, he said. "When you have an incumbent going for a second term, you have very heightened campaigns, very high chances of violence."

This was the case from former presidents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki's time, he said, adding that, should Kenyatta win these elections, the next election, when he leaves power, would be less fiercely contested.

Commission chairperson Kagwiria Mbogori said in the previous election, violence was still fresh in the memory of many and it had made them cautious.

"We are concerned that people are so gripped with fear that they flee. It will affect the results," she said.

Kenyans have to vote in the area where they live and where they were registered months ago, and if people move to different areas on elections day, they will not be able to vote.

There are 16 000 candidates vying for 1882 positions in Tuesday’s poll, which spans all levels of government and which would see Kenyans fill in six ballot papers.
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