Arusha — Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has urged Kenyans not to vote for politicians facing trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in next year's election, according to media reports.
Annan, now African Union envoy overseeing the election, was quoted Tuesday by the BBC as saying that Kenya's external relations could be damaged. He was speaking on a two-day visit to Kenya.
The ICC suspects include Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and MP William Ruto, who hope to run as president and deputy in elections scheduled for March 2013. The two were bitter rivals in the last presidential elections but have now formed an alliance.
Annan did not name Kenyatta and Ruto, but was reported as saying that any Kenyan leader must be able to travel to meet other heads of state and be trusted by the international community.
"When you elect a leader who cannot do that, who will not be free or will not be easily received, it is not in the interests of the country and I'm sure the population will understand that," he is quoted as saying.
Annan also warned Kenyan politicians against using the ICC cases as a campaign tool, according to Kenyan daily The Nation. "It would be a shame if politicians turn the ICC cases into a referendum on pulling out or staying in the court," the paper quotes him as saying.
"The issue is about post-election violence. The ICC is not against Kenya. It is not against any tribe, it is about individuals who have to defend themselves in court," he said.
Both Kenyatta and Ruto have been charged with crimes against humanity for their alleged role in 2007/08 post-election violence that left more than 1,000 dead and many more displaced.
Two other suspects indicted by the ICC on similar charges are ex-Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura and journalist Joshua arap Sang. The four have denied any responsibility in the crimes. Their trial is due to start in April 2013, after the elections.