Kenya has not reacted violently to the news Monday that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will put two of its presidential candidiates on trial. This was ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's proudest assertion when he spoke to the media Tuesday in The Hague.
Flushed with the success of four confirmed charges yesterday against senior Kenyan public figures, Moreno-Ocampo told the crowded press conference, "Now we have judges confirming [that] the first acts of violence in Kenya were planned for months in advance... and that senior members of the government planned retalitatory attacks."
Gently does it
But the Chief Prosecutor was also conciliatory in the way he congratulated the Kenyan establishment for cooperating with the ICC, and the Kenyan people for remaining calm. "The reaction was perfect, there was no problem in Kenya, and the people who are accused said they would continue to cooperate with the court.... Imagine in your countries that the most important leaders in government and the opposition are prosecuted, how would that be?"
This is the only case in Moreno-Ocampo's nine-year tenure to have been started on his own initiative. He is no doubt keen to see it continue smoothly to trial. For that, he needs Kenya's cooperation. He congratulated Kenyan President Kibaki's response to the judgement yesterday, who said in a statement, "We now have a radically transformed judiciary, an independent office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, a police service that is being fundamentally reformed and a functional witness protection agency."
This follows a fractious year between the two in which Nairobi has repeatedly told the ICC to back off and let the Kenyan judiciary deal with prosecuting those responsible for the post-election violence of 2007-8.
Now the 'Ocampo 4'
Two of Moreno-Ocampo's six suspects had the charges against them dropped in yesterday's ruling. But The Chief Prosecutor said he would continue to investigate Muhammed Hussein Ali (former Chief of Police) and Henry Kosegy (former Minister for Industrialisation), and that if he could find more evidence against them, he would file new charges to the ICC's pre-trial chamber. He ruled out appealing against yesterday's decision in any way.
Moreno-Ocampo also said he is now considering combining the two cases into one single prosecution. They were formerly split along political lines into two groups of three.
Often accused of being too political in its decision-making, the ICC Office of The Prosecutor was congratulated by civil society today for facilitating a judicial process free of political pressure. "The decision is significant ... in that this is the first time in Kenyan history you've seen a process like this that is free of political interference," Comfort Ero, Africa Program Director for the International Crisis Group, told RNW. "What is clear is that today's announcement will have a sobering effect on the Kenyan political landscape."
The post-election violence of 2007 left over 1,000 people dead and displaced hundreds of thousands. The calls from rights groups to properly address the crimes committed are so far being answered. "Impunity for political violence has been the norm in Kenya for far too long, and this ruling by the ICC demonstrates that crimes against humanity must never go unpunished," said Alison Smith, Legal Counsel of No Peace Without Justice. "This ruling is especially significant in light of the political involvement and influence of the individuals charged, among whom are two candidates for the 2012 Presidential elections: Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto."
As he was preparing to leave today's press conference, Moreno-Ocampo was asked if arrest warrants for the four suspects would be issued. He answered that up until now the suspects had cooperated fully with the court and that ICC judges would decide if arrest warrants were necessary. Whether the Chief Prosecutor's words of conciliation will be enough to prolong that spirit of cooperation remains to be seen.