News / Africa

ICC Delays Trial of Kenyan President Until November

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi, April 16, 2013.
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi, April 16, 2013.
Selah Hennessy
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has delayed the trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta until November.  The president is facing charges of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in Kenya's 2008 post-election violence. 

The International Criminal Court, or ICC, said the delay is aimed at giving Kenyatta's defense enough time to prepare for his trial.

Michael Jennings from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London said the news did not come as a surprise. 

“In part this reflects the complexity of the case," he said.  "The prosecution has perhaps taken longer to submit all the evidence they need to submit.  And of course the defense needs to have time to go through that and figure out what the defense will be.”

Kenyatta is charged with crimes against humanity, including rape and murder.  The prosecution says he orchestrated ethnic violence after the disputed 2007 presidential election in which more than 1,100 people died.

Kenyatta, who was elected Kenya's president in March, denies the allegations. 

His deputy president, William Ruto, is facing similar charges and is set to go on trial in September.

Jennings said the cases are complex.  “I think it is only to be expected, in cases where you are dealing with very senior officials and very senior politicians, where evidence is always going to be difficult to conclusively show that someone did or did not give an order - that these things take time,” he said.

Adjoa Anyimadu is an expert on Kenya at the London-based research group Chatham House.  She predicted the delay would get a mixed reaction in Kenya.  She said initially the ICC case was welcomed by the Kenyan parliament but a shift has taken place.

She said for the past year, Kenya has been on a diplomatic mission to galvanize support among other African leaders for the ICC case to be dropped.

“This has generated a general feeling that the ICC is targeting Africans, is trying to undermine Kenya's democracy and so on.  And this narrative has actually had quite a lot of support within Kenya,” said Anyimadu.

The trial also poses another problem for the international community, she said.  With the trial now delayed until November 12, foreign powers have to carefully navigate their relationship with the Kenyan leader.

“They do no not want to be seen to undermining the ICC and seen to be courting Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto.  But they also do not want to be seen to be trying to undermine Kenya's legitimate democracy,” said Anyimadu.

The ICC brought charges against four Kenyans in January 2012.  In March the court dropped the charges against one of the four, Francis Muthaura.  Anyimadu says with Kenyatta’s trial now delayed, many will be wondering about the strength of the prosecution’s case.

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