Today and tomorrow, Kenya’s “Ocampo Six” will appear in front of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in answer to summons from Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. These Kenyans – former MPs William Ruto and Henry Kosgey, former police commissioner Mohammed Hussein Ali, radio journalist Joshua Sang, Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura, and Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta – stand accused of fomenting violence after Kenya’s contentious 2007 elections.
The affair has produced mixed reactions in Kenya. The ICC’s case against the “Ocampo Six” has displeased Kenyan leaders, who have called for a one-year deferral of the proceedings. The ICC has rejected Kenyan government requests for a special hearing and more time, but the UN Security Council will consider Kenya’s deferral request in its meeting tomorrow.
As it became clear that the initial hearings, at least, would take place, Kenyan leaders spoke out in the press and in public about the case:
The International Criminal Court hearings against Kenyan suspects is “unprecedented and unfortunate,” said Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
“Unprecedented because it has never happened to our citizens before,” Odinga said in an e-mailed statement from the East African nation’s capital, Nairobi, today. “Unfortunate because it is a big statement on the failure of our national institutions. From the ICC, we expect nothing but justice for the victims and a fair process for the suspects.”
In a special address yesterday, Odinga stressed themes of national unity. Odinga’s cautious statements, which are open to multiple interpretations, suggest to me that the hearings are making Kenyan leaders nervous about potential domestic fallout.
At the same time, some indicators show strong support among the Kenyan population for the hearings. Two polls, one conducted in December and the other released this month, say that around 60% of Kenyans want the case to go forward. I take such polls with a grain of salt, but it does seem that many Kenyans back the proceedings. That support potentially leaves Kenyan politicians at odds with some of their consituents.
What happens next? Moreno-Ocampo has laid out different stipulations for different defendants, which Kenya’s Daily Nation outlines here (see also their helpful list of trial participants here). Long story short, the case could take quite a while to resolve.
When I last wrote about Kenya and the ICC in March, it was unclear whether or not the “Ocampo Six” would even show up to the ICC. My suspicion at the time was that they might refuse, and clearly that hasn’t happened. It seems Kenyan government officials are still pinning their hopes on a UNSC-led deferral of the case, but that may not come. The Economist‘s Baobab has said that “the future of humanitarian law and of the ICC as an effective supranational body depends on the Kenyan case.” If so, the ICC has for the time being blocked a major challenge to its authority.
NTV Kenya has a video report on Uhuru Kenyatta, the defendant with the highest political profile: