Published November 14, 2013
NAIROBI, Kenya – A majority of Kenyans want to see their president appear in court to face charges of crimes against humanity.
That's according a new poll released Thursday that found that 67 percent of 2,060 Kenyans surveyed think that President Uhuru Kenyatta should attend his trial at the International Criminal Court. Kenyatta faces charges related to accusations he helped orchestrate the country's 2007-08 postelection violence that saw more than 1,000 people killed.
Kenyatta has successfully rallied leaders across Africa to denounce The Hague, Netherlands-based court as an institution that unfairly targets Africans. Last month the continental body, the African Union, said the ICC should delay its trial of Kenya's president, in part because Kenya faces increased security challenges after September's militant attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall that killed 67 people.
The U.N. Security Council on Friday will vote on the deferral, Amnesty International said, and diplomats have indicated there's no clear agreement on the way the vote will go.
Amnesty is urging the council to vote against a deferral, saying victims of Kenya's 2007-08 postelection violence have waited too long for justice.
"It would be a shame if Security Council members prioritized the personal interests of political leaders over those of victims of crimes against humanity," said Tawanda Hondora, deputy director of law and policy at Amnesty International.
Kenyans in recent months have watched ICC proceedings against Kenya's deputy president, William Ruto, who faces charges for his alleged role in directing post-election violence. John Githongo — a former Kenyan government adviser who exposed hundreds of millions of dollars in government corruption — said Ruto's televised trial may have contributed to a feeling in Kenya that the proceedings are fair.
The 67 percent of Kenyans who support seeing Kenyatta at trial, though, stands in stark contrast to the African Union push for a deferral, he said.
"The African Union leaders' club is very different from the African people," Githongo said, adding later: "It's a bunch of millionaires, some of whom killed a lot of people to get into that club," citing coups, vote manipulations and the extra-long stays in power by some African presidents.
"You'll find the interest of ordinary Africans tend to revolve around issues of accountability, corruption, equity. ... It should not be assumed their leaders would share their enthusiasm, especially for accountability."
The South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies said in an analysis this week that the African Union position argues that having Kenyatta and Ruto sit at trial undermines their official duties. But the institute noted that the Rome Statute that created the ICC does not grant immunity for heads of state or other senior government officials.
The institute's Ottilia Anna Maunganidze said Security Council support for a deferral is slim, given that the United States, Britain and France all hold veto power and insist that the postponement of Kenyatta's trial from mid-November to February is sufficient.
The ICC charged Kenyatta and Ruto with crimes against humanity, including murder, forcible population transfer and persecution, for their alleged roles in postelection violence that left more than 1,000 people dead in late 2007 and early 2008. Kenyatta also is accused of responsibility for rape and other inhumane acts carried out by a criminal gang known as the Mungiki, which was allegedly under his control.
Kenyatta — who was elected president earlier this year, even though he had been indicted by the ICC — insists he is innocent, as does Ruto. Kenyatta's lawyers have called for the case against him to be delayed or dropped, saying the evidence is tainted by false testimony from prosecution witnesses.
Thursday's poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.