Posted on December 16, 2010

As ICC Names Suspect Kenyan Leaders, Records Reveal Talk of More Ethnic Cleansing

Scott Balsuf, Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 14, 2010

When Luis Moreno Ocampo – the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands – names six top Kenyans Wednesday accused of orchestrating mass violence in late 2007 and early 2008, Kenyan security forces around the country will be prepared for the worst.

They have good reason. Supporters of at least one senior Kenyan, William Ruto, who was minister of both agriculture and higher education, have vowed to make their Rift Valley region “ungovernable” and to unleash a wave of mass violence modeled after the Rwandan genocide. Their motive: to punish their enemies, especially those who have testified against Mr. Ruto, and to prevent Ruto’s possible arrest and extradition to The Hague.

Calling themselves the “Friends of Hon. William Ruto,” a group of 20 prominent Kenyans, including famous marathon runners, prominent businessmen, ex-military officers, and local elected officials, has spent significant portions of the past year obstructing the ICC’s investigation, intimidating witnesses, and planning a Rwanda-style ethnic cleansing in the Rift Valley. The aim: to prevent the possible extradition and arrest of their ethnic group’s top politician for his alleged role in promoting the 2007-08 post-election violence, according to minutes of the group’s meetings and other evidence obtained by the Monitor that is also in the hands of Kenya’s National Security and Intelligence Service and the ICC.

Threats, intimidation, and even mob violence have been a common tool for many of Kenya’s top politicians since liberation from British colonial rule. But this time, leaders left the paper trail of the minutes, which offer a window into how far Kenyan leaders and their supporters are willing to go to gain power and to avoid prosecution.

“I have the sense that the Rift Valley will be taken hostage by the supporters of [Ruto], and that they are threatening to kill the Kikuyu community,” says François Grignon, a Kenya specialist and former director of the Nairobi office of the International Crisis Group who says that the ICC process could help prevent further violence if it is handled properly. “It will all depend on how it is done, by public indictment or by sealed indictment. If this is done very fast, there will be [no violence] to organize, and the person who is arrested may find that the best bet is in his legal defense, and by causing more death it could aggravate his situation.”

Make the Rift Valley ‘ungovernable’

The Monitor, along with the Nairobi Star, obtained these documents through several intermediaries earlier this year. The Monitor met with several of the original sources to confirm that the documents were authentic. The identities of the intermediaries and sources are being withheld for their protection, but several of these individuals have agreed to testify before the ICC, and the documents have been received and accepted by both the ICC evidence unit and Kenya’s National Security Intelligence Service.

In minutes of their meetings, the “Friends of Ruto,” all of them elders from Ruto’s Kalenjin ethnic group, agreed that the “Rift Valley should be made ungovernable and difficult for any investigation to take place,” in the event that Ruto was arrested.

In the minutes, the leaders planned to organize “over 10,000 elite youth” to help “in dealing with our enemies.”

It is, of course, possible that the individuals named as participants in the Friends of Ruto meetings could claim that the words attributed to them were mere bluster. Yet the specificity of the plans suggests that the meetings were more than mere bombast: to recruit, arm, and pay 10,000 young men; to direct their attacks against ethnic enemies such as members of Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Luo tribe and President Mwai Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe; and the continuation of threats against eyewitnesses who testified to ICC investigators.

Now these 20 Friends of Ruto may find themselves the target of ICC investigations. Diplomats and human rights experts familiar with the evidence point out that the Friends of Ruto plans constitute a conspiracy to obstruct justice. And Mr. Ocampo last week indicated that he would seek the arrest of any Kenyan who attempts to obstruct the ICC investigation through destroying evidence or intimidating or bribing witnesses.

As Kenya became ungovernable after the disputed 2007election that triggered the ethnic killings, African leaders such as former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan intervened to get the warring sides of opposition leader Mr. Odinga and President Kibaki to create a powersharing agreement. But before the agreement, ethnic violence gripped swaths of Kenya, especially the Rift Valley, where supporters of Ruto — then a key Odinga ally — went from village to village and house to house, hacking to death ethnic Kikuyus who were presumed to be supporters of Kibaki, who is a Kikuyu.