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Kenya's William Ruto formed an army for war

by 10/09/2013 21:48:00 0 comments 1090 Views
Kenya's William Ruto formed an army for war
William Ruto

Kenya's William Ruto formed an army for war, ICC hears

 William Ruto formed an army prior to the elections in 2007 "to go to war for him", the prosecution has alleged at his trial.

He pleaded not guilty to crimes against humanity charges as the trial began at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Mr Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta are accused of orchestrating violence after elections in 2007, and are being tried separately at The Hague.

Mr Ruto becomes the first serving official to appear at the ICC.

The two trials are seen as a crucial test of the ICC's ability to prosecute political leaders.

William Ruto appeared relaxed in court, sipping from a half-full glass of water and glancing at his wife and daughter seated a few feet away in the front row of the public gallery.

There were occasional tuts from the deputy president's colleagues seated around us as the judge ran through a legal timeline of the case. Mr Ruto stood as the judge asked him to enter a plea to each of the charges.

He answered each of the three counts of murder, persecution and forcible transfer of people in turn, "not guilty, not guilty, not guilty". Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda began by accusing Mr Ruto of resorting to violence when his efforts at the ballot box failed, of stoking the flames of ethnic tensions and issuing the order to attack.

The deputy president watched and listened, smiling occasionally and shaking his head.

This is a politically controversial trial with a complex legal history, says the BBC's Anna Holligan in The Hague.

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto were on opposite sides during the 2007 election and are accused of orchestrating attacks on members of each other's ethnic groups.

They formed an alliance for elections in March, saying they were an example of reconciliation.

Analysts say the ICC prosecutions bolstered their campaign as they portrayed it as foreign interference in Kenya's domestic affairs.

Mr Ruto watched and smiled during proceedings and pleaded not guilty to each of the three counts of murder, persecution and forcible transfer of people, our correspondent says.

Mr Ruto's defence lawyer, Karim Khan, accused the prosecution of building its case on "a conspiracy of lies".

"We say that there is a rotten underbelly of this case that the prosecutor has swallowed hook, line and sinker, indifferent to the truth, all too eager to latch on to any... story that somehow ticks the boxes that we have to tick [to support charges]," Mr Khan said.

Kenya's violent elections

Clashes in the Mathare slum in Nairobi in January 2008

Then-President Mwai Kibaki declared the winner of December 2007 elections - Raila Odinga cries foul

Opposition protests lead to clashes with police and degenerate into ethnic violence across the country

Some 1,200 killed and 600,000 flee homes

Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta in Kibaki camp; accused of orchestrating violence against ethnic groups seen as pro-Odinga

Incumbent Deputy President William Ruto in Odinga camp; accused of targeting pro-Kibaki communities

Power-sharing deal signed in April 2008 after mediation by ex-UN chief Kofi Annan

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto form alliance and win March 2013 election

Mr Ruto's trial started on 10 September; Mr Kenyatta's due in November

Q&A: Kenyan leaders at The Hague

Profile: Fatou Bensouda

Q&A: International Criminal Court

He downplayed claims his client was driven by ethnic hatred, telling the judges that two of Mr Ruto's sisters of the Kalenjin ethnic group were married to members of the rival Kikuyu group.

Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Mr Ruto had planned violence over an 18-month period prior to the 2007 elections, exploiting existing tensions between his Kalenjin group and Mr Kenyatta's Kikuyu group.

Mr Ruto used his power to procure weapons, secure funds and co-ordinate the violence, Ms Bensouda said.

A group of Kenyan MPs and other supporters welcomed Mr Ruto and his co-accused Joshua arap Sang as they arrived for the trial, AFP reports.

He is the head of a Kalenjin-language radio station and is accused of whipping up ethnic hatred.

In Kenya, many people are following the case closely and opinion is split with opposition supporters welcoming the trial and government supporters opposed to it, says the BBC's Caroline Karobia in the capital, Nairobi.

Some 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 forced from their homes in weeks of violence after the disputed December 2007 election.

More than 40,000 people are estimated to be still living in camps, which Mr Kenyatta last week promised to close by 20 September.

On Sunday, he gave cheques worth more than $4,500 (£3,000) per family so they could move out of camps and rebuild their lives.

Ex-UN chief Kofi Annan said, in an article in The New York Times, that the trials were not an assault on Kenya's sovereignty but the "first steps toward a sustainable peace that Kenyans want, deeply".

William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta have been successful in linking their personal legal problems with the national interest, in the Kenyan public imagination.

There are plenty who agreed with the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, when he said in May that the ICC is "hunting Africans". The notion that the court has a racist, neo-colonialist agenda is gaining currency.

But there are others who remember how the Kenyan parliament failed repeatedly to pass legislation that would allow the suspects to be tried at home. Many believe that, even with a reformed judiciary, the Kenyan courts do not have the teeth to put an entrenched political elite on trial.

Then there are the thousands of victims of the post-election violence, still living in camps some five years after they were chased from their homes. Many of these people see little connection between the proceedings at The Hague, and their own efforts to seek justice and redress.

Survivors' tales"Making clear that no one is above the law is essential to combat decades of the use of violence for political ends by Kenya's political elite," he wrote.

Mr Annan brokered the peace deal that brought an end to the brutal killings.

It included an agreement that those responsible for the violence must be held to account.

A commission was set up to investigate the violence and it recommended that if efforts to establish special tribunals in Kenya failed, the matter should be sent to The Hague.

Kenya repeatedly failed to set up such tribunals and so the ICC indicted those it said bore the greatest responsibility for the violence.

The ICC on Monday said the two trials would not clash, after Mr Kenyatta warned that the constitution prevented the two men from being abroad at the same time.

The president is due to go on trial in November. He also denies charges of fuelling violence.

The judges said the two cases could be heard alternately - in blocks of four weeks.

On Thursday, Kenya's parliament passed a motion calling for the country to withdraw from the ICC.

The court said the cases would continue, even if Kenya withdrew.

In May, the African Union (AU) accused the ICC of "hunting" Africans because of their race and urged it to drop the Kenyan cases.

The ICC says it pursues justice impartially and will not allow perpetrators of violence to go unpunished.

The court was set up in 2002 to deal with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

It has been ratified by 122 countries, including 34 in Africa.

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