19 January 2013

Kenya: Uhuru and Ruto May Be Impeached - ICG Report

Photo: Capital FM
Uhuru Kenyatta (file photo).

UHURU Kenyatta and William Ruto face a possible impeachment if they become president and deputy president after the election, according to the International Crisis Group.

The report entitled Kenya's 2013 Elections warns of irreparable economic damage if Uhuru and Ruto win the March 4 polls.

Uhuru, Ruto, former Public Service boss Francis Muthaura and broadcaster Joshua Sang are charged with crimes against humanity by the ICC. Their trials are set to start on April 10 and 11, coinciding with a possible second round of the election.

"The first domestic challenge such a president would likely face would be Article 145 (1) (b) of the constitution, which allows a member of the National Assembly, supported by at least a third of all the members, to move a motion for the president's impeachment on the ground that there are serious reasons for believing he has committed a crime under national or international law."

Furthermore, the report warns that the absence of the President and his deputy would lead to a situation where "day-to-day government would be managed by a leaderless cabinet for the course of the proceedings and little of the reform process would be expected to move ahead."

The Jubilee leaders have been challenged to "provide the public with a clear, detailed account of how you would propose to govern while also conducting your defences before the ICC, taking into account the time required and the demands of appearing in person in court on a different continent."

"On one occasion Mr Ruto has mentioned that he can run the country while at The Hague because of the ICT. That is not enough, both candidates if elected as the president and Vice President will be spending considerable amount of their time at The Hague. It is prudent for them to explain, how during their absence they can manage the affairs of the state," said the author Abdullahi Halakhe, the ICG Horn of Africa analyst.

Internationally, the report foresees diplomatic isolation if the two win the elections.

"If he (Uhuru) were to resist The Hague process, Kenya would be isolated, with major implications for the entire population and socio-economic development. Even if the president cooperates with the court, it would be difficult for many countries to have normal diplomatic relations during the long trial and many donor governments might need to scale back their bilateral assistance," the report states.

The ICG also predicted the erosion of Nairobi's position as a diplomatic capital, departure by some foreign businesses, and a significant drop in foreign direct investment, trade and tourism.

"In case of non-cooperation, it is likely that the UN may curtail its operations in Kenya, and Nairobi in particular. Not only would this mean a loss of business for Kenyan companies, but the numerous UN staff based in Nairobi might also move, with the attendant loss in rental income and spending, which, combined, would have a disastrous impact on the economy," said the ICG.

Uhuru and Ruto have both declared that they will follow "due process" but the ICG believes they may try to get Kenya to withdraw from the Rome Statute once they ascend to power.

Withdrawal at this stage would not stop the ICC from pursuing the charges against them, according to the Rome Statute.

"The most extreme case scenario would be complete non-cooperation, comparable to neighbouring Sudan's President Omar al Bashir, where the president would need to remain in power indefinitely for fear that he would otherwise ultimately end up in The Hague. Such an outcome would be disastrous for Kenya and its business community and the reform process would be irretrievably undermined," the report cautions.

Attempts to establish a local tribunal to handle the PEV cases against the four would pose an immense challenge for the judiciary under Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.

The ICG recognises that the Uhuru-Ruto alliance could lower tension in the Rift Valley, the epicentre of political violence and ethnic tension between the Kalenjin and Kikuyu since the return to multiparty politics.

"Ruto and Kenyatta must navigate the treacherous and mutually distrustful history between their respective communities," the report notes.

The report also warned of the high risk of political violence as politicians compete for new positions such as governors, senators and National Assembly members.

"The worry is the structural drivers of conflicts that caused 2007 election violence are in place, but new issues like the ICC and the MRC are also potential triggers of conflict," said Halakhe.

ICG asked President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to ensure respect for electoral laws, proper security arrangements and unconditional support to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. The IEBC has also been asked to ensure strict adherence to electoral laws to reduce the risk of a recurrence of post-election violence.

Halakhe said the forthcoming elections if done in a free, fair and peaceful manner, could foster economic growth.

"Kenya has all the ingredients to take off - a robust media, a growing middle class, and a strong civil society, and now even more significantly, a new constitution as well as the new discoveries of oil and gas," he said.

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