Suited and media-savvy, it seems at first look as if William Ruto, the Deputy President of Kenya, is an average politician.
However, today he faced the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He’s the first serving political figure to do so. The Deputy President accused of crimes against humanity after the disputed Presidential elections of 2007.
It’s estimated that well over 1,000 people died in the incurring violence after Mwai Kibaki won against Raila Odinga amid accusations of fraud and vote rigging. Also accused—though not in dock yet (his trail starts in November)—is the current President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kenyatta and Ruto were on opposing sides during the 2007 election. Both are accused of coordinating attacks on members of each other’s respective ethnic groups.
In addition to those who died, another 600,000 were displaced in the early months of 2008. A peace deal was only struck after the invention of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Kenyatta and Ruto have since formed a coalition, putting the past behind them in the eyes of supporters. However, one can easily read their alliance as simply an act of political convenience from two highly ambitions politicians.
However, even now, a almost six years after the violence first hit, there are still displaced communities who were forced to leave their homes amid violence, orchestrated by one ethnic group towards another.
“The crimes of which Mr Ruto and Mr Sang are charged were not just random and spontaneous acts of brutality,” The ICC’s Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda told 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 Voluntarily went to face the trial, perhaps suggesting he believes there is enough evidence for his exoneration. However, opposition parties are accusing Ruto and Kibaki of bribery to secure the silence of witnesses.
Kenyatta’s own website pulls No punches in its criticism of the ICC: “The ICC is an illegitimate and criminal organization. It is an institution of white power, specifically created to deal with African leaders.”
Although the Kenyatta and Ruto’s accusations are forceful and pull no-punches, there is a reflection in this quote that many in Africa do view the ICC with suspicion. The aims of the ICC are “To bring to justice those responsible for the worst crimes committed anywhere in the world.”
However, many view the organisation of unfairly targeting too many African leaders in comparison to other regions. Writer and Commentator Zaya Yeebo has claimed “The trials are nothing to do with seeking justice for the hundreds of thousands of wronged people.”
The trial at The Hague continues. Of course, this is a long way away from the reality of those who are still displaced in the Rift Valley.