Arusha — A Kenyan court on Friday gave Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta a green light to run in presidential elections next month, despite being indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity.
Son of Kenya's first president Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru has formed an electoral alliance with MP William Ruto, who is also indicted by the ICC. Ruto is running as his deputy.
The High Court, sitting in Nairobi, said it did not have the competence to rule in a case brought by civil society groups seeking to exclude him from the poll. "Since Kenyan courts and the ICC are of concurrent jurisdiction, we cannot adjudicate over the same matter," said the court. "Only the ICC can bar them to run for public office."
"The two have not been convicted and as we have stated, citizens have a right to elect a person of their choice and the candidates have a right to contest. That right must remain the case and the court cannot take it away," the judges ruled. They said the complainants could go to the Supreme Court if they considered that the Electoral Commission violated the Constitution when it approved the candidacies of the two.
At the court entrance, Kenyatta-Ruto supporters sang and danced and chanted the names of their candidates.
The NGO coalition that went to the court has not yet decided whether to go to the Supreme Court but is running out of time and money, according to group spokesperson Leempaa Suiyanka, quoted by AFP. The first round of the elections is scheduled for March 4.
The civil society groups had argued that Kenyatta and Ruto's candidacies were incompatible with Constitutional provisions on integrity, because of their indictment by the ICC.
Kenyatta, 51, and Ruto, 46, are charged with crimes against humanity in connection with violence that followed the last elections in December 2007. Their trials are scheduled to start on April 10 and 11 before the ICC.
On Thursday, they participated by video link from Nairobi in a pre-trial status conference. The asked for the trial to be postponed, saying the prosecutor had transmitted documents late. The court has not yet made a decision.