Kenyatta bids for presidency despite charges
Sporting a red cap, red-and-white shirt and designer watch, Uhuru Kenyatta gripped the microphone and whipped up thousands of supporters ahead of today’s general election in Kenya.
Voters will go to the polls fearing a replay of 2007-08’s post-election violence and aware that surveys show a 50/50 chance they are about to elect a president charged with crimes against humanity.
At Kenyatta’s final rally in a Nairobi park on Saturday, there was no clue that this is a man who ranks alongside Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, Libya’s Saif al-Islam Gadafy and Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir in the eyes of the international criminal court (ICC).
Waiting patiently for six hours in unforgiving heat, fans scrambled for caps and T-shirts, hung off lamp-posts and trees and cheered wildly when Kenyatta’s helicopter flew overhead. Finally, the deputy prime minister appeared and addressed the sea of red.
“We’ve come a long way and been through a lot of ups and downs. One of the challenges we faced was people claiming we can’t run because of the charges of the ICC. But God has opened a door for us and we were cleared by the [Kenyan] courts to run.” He said of Raila Odinga, his chief rival for the presidency: “He should accept that the will of the people is the will of God.”
Crimes against humanity
Kenyatta is among four Kenyans facing ICC charges for engineering ethnic violence that killed more than 1,100 people and uprooted 600,000 after the last election. Prosecutors accuse him of bankrolling the outlawed militia group Mungiki as it carried out revenge attacks.
Kenyatta’s trial was due to begin next month, when he is likely to face a run-off vote against Odinga if today’s poll is tight, but ICC officials have indicated that it could be delayed until later this year.
One of Kenyatta’s co-accused is his running mate, William Ruto. Their Jubilee coalition has united two of Kenya’s biggest communities, the Kikuyu and Kalenjin, which were locked in deadly clashes last time.
Some predicted, or hoped, that the ICC charges would scuttle the “UhuRuto” ticket. In a live TV debate, Odinga suggested his rival might one day have to govern by Skype from the Hague. In fact Kenyatta and Ruto appear to have gained sympathy from voters wanting to send a defiant message to “western imperialists” interfering in Kenyan affairs.
David Kamau, a veteran of four violent elections, said: “It’s wrong for anyone to come from outside, even if they are seeking truth. It’s Kenyans who should judge which way it should go. In your own home, can anyone else come and determine your issues? All these decisions should be left to Kenyan citizens.”
‘West versus Kenya’
The Kenya Human Rights Commission opposed the two men being allowed to run with the charges hanging over them, but the country’s courts decided otherwise.