ICC Kenya case ruling and its consequences

That the ICC’s website crashed an hour before the ruling was given underscores the importance of today’s ICC ruling.

In the end it emerged that charges against Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura, MP William Ruto and radio Presenter Joshua Sang were confirmed. Former police commissioner Husein Ali and MP Henry Kosgey will walk, at least for now.

The political implications of the decision will be huge.

Firstly, President Kibaki must decide whether or not to retain two of his most trusted lieutenants in the government (Messrs Kenyatta and Muthaura) even as they face charges with regard to the death of 1300 Kenyans and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. Should the president decide to stand with them I suspect that soon the courts will have to decide whether these two are fit to hold public office.

Remember that Kenya has a resurgent judiciary eager to stamp its authority as an independent institution. There will be intense political pressure from Civil Society groups to see the two step aside.

Equally interesting will be whether the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission will allow Ruto and Kenyatta to run for president in light of these developments. Again, the case might go all the way to the Supreme Court. The Kenyan constitution has a clause banning those accused of certain crimes from holding public office. The vagueness of the wording in the constitution will give the courts discretion in reaching a verdict. I suspect some activism here was well.

Secondly, Ruto and Kenyatta will find it hard to sell their candidacy to Kenyans ahead of the general elections later this year. As the process continues, it will be hard for both (whether guilty or not) to hide from the gruesome crimes that were committed in 2007-08. I therefore doubt the viability of either one running for president at the top of a ticket. If they want to be on a winning team in this year’s election they must be part of a coalition.

But coalition building will be hard. For one, cracks are already appearing in either camp. Ruto recently got kicked out of a party he tried to commandeer after defecting from ODM. Mr. Kenyatta is also facing a simmering insurgency within his Central Kenya camp. The other thing is that the Kenyan economic and political upper class has revealed a willingness to throw the two under the bus if they become too much of a baggage. It is telling that a group of Central Kenyan tycoons have started warming up to Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the man to beat in this year’s general election.

I expect a flurry of press conferences to follow shortly. But I must go to bed for now. It is 3:15 AM…

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