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Tue Jul 22 19:41:17 SAST 2014

West to tighten the screws on Kenyatta

Reuters | 15 February, 2013 02:25
Kenya's Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and his running mate, former cabinet minister William Ruto, wave to their supporters during a rally in Nairobi last month. Both have been indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity
Image by: NOOR KHAMIS/GALLO IMAGES

Kenya could next month elect a president accused of crimes against humanity, posing a diplomatic headache for the West .

If Uhuru Kenyatta wins the March 4 poll, Kenya will become the second country, after Sudan, to have a president who faces trial at the International Criminal Court, in The Hague.

The son of Kenya's founding president, Kenyatta is running a close second to Prime Minister Raila Odinga in opinion polls.

Foreign powers face a dilemma about what to do if Kenyatta wins the election.

His running mate, William Ruto, has also been indicted by the ICC for grave crimes linked to violence after the 2007 poll.

Several embassies in Nairobi said it could not be business as usual when dealing with a leader indicted by the ICC. But they will be reluctant to unravel long-held diplomatic, trade and military ties with Kenya.

When US President Barack Obama said earlier this month that his government supported a vote that "reflects the will of the people", Kenyatta trumpeted his words as proof that there would be no international blowback if he won.

Washington's top diplomat for Africa was more blunt.

"Choices have consequences," Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson said, hammering home the same point at least five times during a 40-minute conference call.

Carson did not mention names but the message was clear: there would be implications for Kenya's relations with the world if the Kenyatta-Ruto alliance wins.

"We live in an interconnected world and people should be thoughtful about the impact their choices have on their nation, on the economy," Carson said.

If, as many predict, no candidate secures an absolute majority and the vote goes to a second round, Kenyatta is expected to be one of the two contenders.

Carson's words lit up the Kenyan social media.

"We don't give a rat's behind [who] says what. Kenya has moved on from hanging on each word from the 'mighty' West," read a comment on the website of Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper.

Britain, the EU , France and others also turned the diplomatic screws. Their position, they said, was no contact with people indicted by the ICC unless essential.

In response, Kenya's foreign ministry summoned EU envoys, accusing the ambassadors of inflammatory remarks.

If a newly elected Kenyatta were to refuse to appear before the ICC ". you don't need a PhD in international relations to know the options open to us", a Western diplomat said.

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Tue Jul 22 19:41:17 SAST 2014 ::