ICC sends prominent Kenyans to trial for post-election violence: Lessons for Sierra Leone

24 January 2012

Sierra Leone is fast becoming notorious for its pre and post elections violence, despite the horrors of a bloody civil war that lasted for over ten years and took the lives of 200,000 people.

As the country prepares for presidential, parliamentary and local elections this coming November, already there have been several violent skirmishes, which according to police and civil society investigations – were orchestrated and sponsored by politicians.

Last year, in the eastern and southern provinces of Sierra Leone, there were serious clashes between factions of the ruling APC party, and also running street battles involving supporters of the country’s main opposition SLPP and the APC party.

In Freetown, just weeks ago, bloody violence erupted at a local by-election in the Fourah Bay district, which left several people hospitalised and properties destroyed, raising fears of an impending eruption of widespread violence at the general elections slated for November this year.

Despite intense nationwide public education campaigns by the country’s National Electoral Commission and the Political Parties Registration Commission, aimed at sensitising people on the need for peaceful, free and fair elections, politicians are instead instigating and sponsoring pre-election chaos and violence to deny supporters of their opponents the right to vote.

In November 2011, president Koroma said that anyone found guilty of orchestrating and promoting electoral violence will be severely punished. And this was echoed by leaders of the opposition parties.

But few in Sierra Leone have faith in the conviction and honesty of politicians to keep to this promise.

However, most Sierra Leoneans are now looking up to the international community, especially the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure that rogue and violent prone politicians are aware of the consequences of their actions and behaviour, with respect to pre and post election violence.

It is for this reason that yesterday’s ICC ruling on the 2007 Kenyan electoral violence is of particular interest to Sierra Leone.

It is hoped that this ruling will act as a strong deterrent to politicians in Sierra Leone, as the country prepares for national elections taking place in November.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled that four prominent Kenyans, including the deputy prime minister, are to stand trial for crimes against humanity and other offences allegedly committed following general elections in late 2007.

The ICC pre-trial chamber confirmed charges against Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance; William Samoei Ruto, former Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology; Francis Kirimi Muthaura, Head of the Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet; and Joshua arap Sang, Head of Operations for KASS FM radio station.

With respect to Mr. Ruto and Mr. Sang, who are charged with crimes against humanity, deportation or forcible transfer and persecution, the pre-trial judges found that “on the basis of the evidence presented, that they are responsible for the charges levied against them,” according to a summary of the pre-trial chamber’s decision.

More than 1,100 people were killed, 3,500 injured and up to 600,000 forcibly displaced in the violence that followed the December 2007 elections.

“These crimes resulted in the death of hundreds, and the displacement of thousands of civilians from Turbo town, the greater Eldoret area, Kapsabet town and Nandi Hills. The Chamber also found that these crimes were committed as part of an attack directed against particular groups, namely, Kikuyu, Kamba and Kisii, due to their perceived political affiliation to the Party of National Unity.”

As regards Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Muthaura, the court found that the prosecution had established substantial grounds to believe that the crimes of murder, deportation or forcible transfer, rape, other inhumane acts and persecution were committed in an attack on the civilian residents of Nakuru and Naivasha towns between 24 and 28 January 2008.

“With respect to the criminal responsibility of Mr. Muthaura and Mr. Kenyatta, the chamber was satisfied that the evidence also established substantial grounds to believe that they are criminally responsible for the alleged crimes, as indirect co-perpetrators.”

“As a result of the decisions issued today, Mr. Ruto, Mr. Sang, Mr. Muthaura and Mr. Kenyatta are committed to trial. They will be tried before a different chamber for the charges confirmed. To this end, one or more trial chambers will be established by the Presidency of the ICC,” the pre-trial chamber stated in its ruling.

The pre-trial chamber declined to confirm charges against two other suspects – Henry Kiprono Kosgey, former Minister of Industrialization, and Mohamed Hussein Ali, the Police Commissioner at the time of the violence, saying that the prosecution had not produced sufficient evidence to link them to the charges against them.

“It is our utmost desire that the decisions issued by this chamber today bring peace to the people of the Republic of Kenya and prevent any sort of hostility,” pre-trial judges Ekaterina Trendafilova, the presiding judge, and her colleagues, Hans-Peter Kaul and Cuno Tarfusser, said in their decisions.

“The decisions are the result of intensive and committed judicial work of the chamber, conducted impartially, independently and conscientiously in the interests and in the service of justice,” they added.

More than 1,100 people were killed, 3,500 injured and up to 600,000 forcibly displaced in the violence that followed the December 2007 elections. There were also hundreds of rapes, possibly more, and at least 100,000 properties were destroyed, according to ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.


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