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Wed Apr 16 21:03:10 SAST 2014

Kenya could elect ICC war crimes accused

unknown | 25 February, 2013 00:36
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

If Kenyan presidential hopeful Uhuru Kenyatta wins the March 4 elections his first foreign trip could be to The Hague to face trial for crimes against humanity.

The looming International Criminal Court trial for Kenyatta and his vice-presidential running mate has sparked fears of economic and diplomatic consequences if he wins the election but fails to surrender to the court.

It raises the prospect that Kenya - a regional diplomatic hub, popular tourist destination and with a growing economy buoyed by foreign investment - could follow the path of pariah state Sudan, the only other country to elect a president indicted by the ICC.

The US's top diplomat for Africa, Johnnie Carson, earlier this month warned Kenyans that "choices have consequences" in an apparent caution about a Kenyatta victory.

"We live in an interconnected world and people should be thoughtful about the effects their choices have."

The ICC issue "raises enormously the stakes of the presidential contest", the International Crisis Group think tank has warned.

Kenyatta and running mate William Ruto "have challenged the ICC proceedings as politically motivated, and used them to rally their respective ethnic communities' support", International Crisis Group said.

Their trials for their alleged roles in orchestrating post-election violence five years ago, in which more than 1100 people were killed, are due to open on April 10 and 11, potentially clashing with a widely expected second-round run-off vote.

In terms of policy, little of real substance divides the top candidates. Kenya's election races have a long past of ethnic campaigning and violence. This has raised concerns that voters will use the election as a referendum on the ICC.

"The people of Kenya - and they alone - have the power and the mandate to determine the leadership of this great country," Kenyatta said after judges cleared the way for him to run for office earlier this month. -Sapa-AFP

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Wed Apr 16 21:03:10 SAST 2014 ::