The Hague-based International Criminal Court, or ICC, has ruled that four Kenyans accused of masterminding Kenya’s 2007-to-2008 post-election violence must stand trial, while charges against two other Kenyans were dropped due to insufficient evidence.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, former agriculture and higher education minister William Ruto, civil service head Francis Muthaura, and radio presenter Joshua Sang will all have their day in court.
Meanwhile, Postmaster General and former police commissioner Mohammed Hussein Ali and suspended industrialization minister Henry Kosgey are off the hook. All six Kenyans faced various charges related to the countrywide ethnic violence that followed the bitterly disputed 2007 elections in which more than 300,000 people were displaced and some 1,300 were killed.
Shortly after the ICC's announcement Monday, presidential hopeful William Ruto held a press conference at his Nairobi residence that aired on Kenyan television. At one point, he addressed his presidential competitors saying, in his words, "let us meet at the ballot."
"I have been, I am, and I will forever be a stranger to the allegations that have been made against me," said Ruto. "As a result, while a decision to confirm the charges has been made, my legal team will move expeditiously to analyze different actions that we will take as a team. I am persuaded and I am clear in my mind that it doesn’t matter how long it takes -- the truth finally will prevail and my innocence confirmed."
Kenyatta, meanwhile, said he is still planning to run for president in the east African country's upcoming elections, the exact date of which remains unknown.
ICC prosecutors had accused the six suspects of various crimes against humanity. In the cases of Ruto, Kosgey and Sang, charges included murder, deportation or forcible transfer of a population and persecution. Charges levied against Kenyatta, Muthaura and Ali included murder, deportation or forcible transfer of a population, rape, persecution and inhumane acts.
Evidence against Kosgey and Ali was ruled insufficient for trial, but the court will proceed with cases against Ruto, Kenyatta, Muthaura and Sang. Opening dates for the trials have not been set.
The ruling, which was delivered from The Hague Monday by ICC Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova, warned suspects not to engage in any behavior that could compromise their cases or the well-being of Kenyans.
"At this point, the chamber recalls its previous warning to the suspects that their continued liberty is subject to their non-engagement in incitements of violence or hate speech," she said.
She emphasized that Monday’s ruling was merely whether to go forward with the cases based on evidence and did not establish suspects’ guilt or innocence.
George Wainaina, chairman of Kenya's National Council of Non-Governmental Organizations, said he welcomed Monday’s developments, calling it a radical departure from the Kenya of the past.
"We have suffered impunity a great deal," he said. "A lot of things have been done without any thought somebody might query this. The fact that some people have been taken to court helps in curbing or bringing down impunity."
Ahead of the ICC ruling, Kenyan government authorities said they were tightening security and appealed to Kenyans to remain calm and act peacefully. There are concerns the ruling could kick up protests or new violence in the country, where many Kenyans, including some lawmakers, say the country should conduct its own trials of the post-election violence suspects.