By now, readers will be intimately aware with the ongoing and tragic crisis unfolding in Nairobi. According to reports, al-Shabab militants have barricaded themselves and hostages inside Westgate mall. Some 70 civilians have been killed with well over a hundred injured. Al-Shabab claims the attacks are in retaliation for Kenya’s military involvement in Somalia.
When the siege broke out, some commentators suggested it would help the cases facing Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto. Both face charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over their alleged role in Kenya’s 2007/08 post-election violence. They have argued (quite reasonably I think) that, as the head or state and deputy head of state of Kenya, they should not have to both attend trial in The Hague simultaneously. The massacre at Westgate would seem to bolster their argument.
But Ruto has taken things a step farther. As the siege continues, he berated the ICC for making him attend his trial (note: ICC Judges adjourned his trial as a response to the events at Westgate). Standing on the steps of the ICC, he exclaimed that the attacks in Nairobi were timed to coincide with his trial. Even more dubiously, Ruto asserted that President Kenyatta was unable to attend a conference on the security situation in Somalia last week because Ruto was forced to attend trial in The Hague.
Ruto and Kenyatta have worked tirelessly to have their trials dismissed. But it’s one thing to try to get motions passed at the Security Council to throw out the cases or resolutions passed in Kenyan Parliament to get Kenya to withdraw from the ICC. It’s another thing altogether to use this awful tragedy afflicting Kenyans to undermine the Court. It represents a brand new low.
UPDATE: There has been some concern that I didn’t quote Ruto directly in the post. I thought his words speak for themselves. Regardless, Kenya Today has transcribed Ruto’s remarks, referring to them as “sensational”. From his statement, I find it impossible not to infer that what Ruto is saying is that the ICC process which has kept him out of Kenya is (at least partly) to blame for the Westgate crisis. His comments clearly suggest that, had it not been for the ICC trial process, the Westgate attack would not have occurred. As of writing, no evidence to date has been provided to substantiate any claim that the attacks and Ruto’s absence from Kenya were coordinated or had anything to do with each other.
“Its really unfortunate that these terrorists attack was timed to coincide with my presence here at the Hague and the visit by His Excellency the president of Kenya to New York for the UN general Assembly. Meaning that both the president and myself would not have been in the country. It is also instructive to note that the president skipped a meeting last week on the 16th in Brussels that was meant to discuss the Somali crisis complete with the threats it poses to the security situation in Kenya in the horn of Africa and generally in the region,the president had to skip that because he was unable to attend because am required to continuously attend court here at the Hague. It is also important to note that because of the Somali problem that Kenya is engaged in, That these terrorists have been wedged on Kenya . We hope that some people will begin to contextualize what is going on and begin to appreciate the challenges that Kenya is going through, the region is going through,and the complications that are brought by what is going on here. We believe in justice, we believe in fair play and we have as a country, both the president and myself as individuals, we’ve committed ourselves to be present here in court so that we can clear our names but we have to counter balance our individual responsibilities or responsibilities as individuals and legitimate constitutional requirements by 40 million Kenyans. I will be home hopefully this evening to participate in my capacity as deputy president in managing the situation at home and hopefully we should be able to bring this to a close in the shortest time possible to alleviate any further suffering and to put our country on the safe path” .