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ICC Case Accuses 6 Prominent Kenyans Of Violence

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ICC Case Accuses 6 Prominent Kenyans Of Violence

Africa

ICC Case Accuses 6 Prominent Kenyans Of Violence

ICC Case Accuses 6 Prominent Kenyans Of Violence

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Six men suspected of fueling ethnic violence in Kenya's 2007 elections are accused of crimes against humanity. The accusations were made in the International Criminal Court, though no formal charges have been filed against the men. Steve Inskeep talks to Scott Baldauf, the African bureau chief for The Christian Science Monitor, about this latest development.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And now we're going to hear about a potentially explosive development in Kenya. Yesterday, the International Criminal Court named six prominent Kenyans as the main organizers of mass violence - violence that erupted following a disputed presidential election three years ago. The list includes top government ministers, a former police commissioner, and a well-known radio talk show host. For more, we're going to talk to Scott Baldauf, the African bureau chief for the Christian Science Monitor. He's been covering this story.

Welcome to the program.

Mr. SCOTT BALDAUF (Christian Science Monitor): Thank you.

INSKEEP: What makes it an explosive development that these particular men would be named?

Mr. BALDAUF: The people who have been named represent prominent Kenyans from major communities and the two main parties within Kenya. If they are sent off to trial, their removal will remove advocates of their own ethnic group at the highest echelons of power in Kenya.

So what we might see are communities rallying behind their leaders. We might also see a return to the violence that happened in early 2008 after the election.

INSKEEP: Was that basically ethnic violence at that time?

Mr. BALDAUF: Well, it was political violence, and it was very, very well organized, and it had an ethnic flavor. Many of the political parties in Kenya draw their support along ethnic lines. So people will vote for those who are seen to be good advocates for their economic future, and also their political voice. For instance, the party of President Kibaki, who is a Kikuyu, often finds his strongest supporters are also Kikuyu, and so on.

INSKEEP: So you have this situation where we're revisiting crimes from almost three years ago. What did the international criminal courts say that these six men did?

Mr. BALDAUF: What they're alleged to have done is to organize, used to start violent campaigns in certain communities. Much of that violence took place in the town of Eldoret. This is a community that has traditionally been of the ethnic Kalenjin group, which is the supporters of people who - such as William Ruto, probably the strongest Kalenjin politician in Kenya. They are alleged to have organized these youths to then start violent campaigns against people from other ethnic groups who are supporters of other parties.

What the concern is, is that might happen yet again, if these people are arrested and carted off to The Hague to face trial.

INSKEEP: And haven't you, Scott Baldauf, come up with information suggesting that some Kenyans had been saying exactly that: If we're charged by this criminal court, there's going to be violence. We're going to cause violence.

Mr. BALDAUF: I did receive some documents earlier this year of a group calling themselves the Friends of William Ruto. This group had pledged themselves to recruit 10,000 young people to act as a militia, to protect the interests, and also to push out people from other ethnic groups in the Rift Valley. So there was a very deliberate sense of menace here against people perceived to be against the group's interest.

INSKEEP: So the International Criminal Court has gone after these six men, in spite of threats and fears that they will spark more violence. I'm curious what you think the opinion has been among Kenyans at large. Are people wanting to just leave this incident in the past and try to move on if they can? Or has there been strong support for the idea of prosecuting these men for past crimes?

Mr. BALDAUF: The polls that came out in Kenya in the last few days indicate that a large number of Kenyans would love to see the end of impunity by their politicians. Many Kenyans have grown tired of the scandals, of the corruption and also of the violence. That was a major turnoff for Kenyan voters after the 2007 elections. So 85 percent support the ICC prosecution of those seen to be most responsible.

Now, there is certainly a variety of opinion within Kenya, and there are those who see this as going against the sovereignty of Kenya, that perhaps maybe Kenya should be able to solve its problems on its own. The problem is that they had that chance to create their own tribunal to deal with this, and they dodged it. The parliament decided not to found a tribunal to deal with this, and so the ICC had to step in.

INSKEEP: Scott Baldauf is the African bureau chief for The Christian Science Monitor, and he's following this story from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Scott, thanks very much.

Mr. BALDAUF: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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