21 November 2012

Kenya: Uhuru, Ruto Presidency Fate Lies in Court - Electoral Body

Photo: Capital FM/Charles Kimani
William Ruto, center, and Uhuru Kenyatta, right, face charges from the International Criminal Court for post-election violence in 2007-2008.

Nairobi — The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will only allow Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North Member of Parliament William Ruto to run for the presidency if they are cleared by the High Court.

Speaking during Citizen TV's Cheche show on Wednesday, IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan said the commission would not clear the two contestants, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, if the High Court declined to give them the green light.

The two have been charged at The Hague based court for crimes including rape, murder and wilful displacement of people.

"Uhuru and Ruto may be qualified to contest for elections because they are not guilty of any electoral offence. On the other hand somebody may say that says Chapter Six of Constitution is very clear on leadership and integrity," he said.

"But as far as we are concerned if the court decides that they are eligible to contest that is the people's choice; let the people decide who is going to be their leader," he maintained.

A group of civil society organisations and individuals had moved to the High Court seeking to block the IEBC from accepting the nomination of the two for the presidency on the basis that they are facing serious charges before The Hague based court. They argue that allowing the two would be against the Kenyan law especially the Chapter Six of the Constitution on Leadership and Integrity.

They allege that allowing the two front runners would inculcate impunity and a recipe for chaos.

The case against the two politicians which is now due for hearing on Friday had stalled after civil society activist Patrick Njuguna lodged an application seeking to stop the proceedings temporarily pending an intended appeal.

Njuguna said he is dissatisfied with the decision by justices Mohammed Warsame, Issac Lenaola and Philomena Mwilu to strike out an amended petition which enjoined Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi.

Through Weda and Company advocates, Njuguna contends that the removal of the said politicians has left the petition bare and cannot deal with the issue of leadership and integrity adequately.

In the application, Njuguna says the main thrust of the petition is to deal with the question of integrity on the five prominent Kenyans who are also leading contenders for the presidency in the forthcoming general elections.

"Issues raised in the amended petition joining the trio is weighty, sensitive and ought to be looked at, investigated and a determination made," he states.

It is his argument that to proceed with the petition in its current form will prejudice the petitioners and make them appear to be acting in a discriminatory manner in matters of integrity.

"But as far as we are concerned if the court decides that they are eligible to contest that is the people's choice; let the people decide who is going to be their leader," he maintained.

Justice Issac Lenaola was told the question of integrity ought to be dealt with once and for all and simultaneously against all the leading candidates.

"It is in public interest to look at all the issues raised in the amended petition and further amended petition comprehensively and hear all the respondents on each of the claims," Njuguna argued through his advocate.

Justice Lenaola directed the petitioner to serve his application on all the nine parties who have been named before November 23 when the application will be argued.

Initially, Njuguna together with Charles Omanga and Ndhiwa MP Augustino Neto filed the petition against Kenyatta and Ruto days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed crimes against humanity charges against them in March.

Netto has since disowned the amended petition joining the trio saying it is an attempt to settle political scores through the courts.

During the Wednesday morning show, Hassan also argued that Parliament took away the IEBC's vetting powers when they amended and passed the Leadership and Integrity Act, removing provisions that allowed the electoral body to vet such individuals.

Kenyatta and Ruto have time and again insisted that they will seek the presidency regardless of their cases at the ICC with Ruto even arguing that he can run the country from The Hague based Court.

"Parliament has passed the Leadership and Integrity Act and there is no vetting procedure in that Act," he said.

Hassan instead said that the IEBC only had the authority to oversee and clear party primary nominees.

"What we are trying to do is administrative mechanism which is only for party nominations; if you feel that a candidate is being imposed on Kenyans during the primary party nominations you can come to us," he argued.

"There is a 14-day window period when we can either reject a name or you can go and challenge us but this is only for party nominations," he insisted.

The country's political landscape is filled with political rhetoric owing to the forthcoming elections.

Both Kenyatta and Ruto have denied masterminding the crimes that left more than 1,000 dead and about 650,000 others displaced.

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