Poll: Most Kenyans want president to stand trial

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President Uhuru Kenyatta

In this Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 file photo, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, center-left, arrives for the burial ceremony of his nephew Mbugua Mwangi and Mwangi’s fiancee Rosemary Wahito, who were both killed in the Westgate Mall terrorist attack, at the burial site in the village of Ichawara, Kenya. (AP Photo / Ben Curtis, File)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — 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 Thursday that found that 67 percent of 2,060 Kenyans surveyed think 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.

A draft resolution before the U.N. Security Council requests ICC “to defer the investigation and prosecution against President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and Deputy President William Samoei Ruto for a period of 12 months …”

The Security Council will vote on the resolution Friday, U.N. diplomats said. The draft resolution appears doomed, with only seven council members supporting it. It would need nine votes to pass, and even then it could be vetoed by strong ICC supporters Britain or France.

Amnesty International 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 Ruto, who also faces charges for his alleged role in directing post-election violence. John Githongo — a former Kenyan government adviser who exposed massive government corruption — said Ruto’s televised trial may have contributed to a feeling in Kenya that the proceedings are fair.

“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 this week that the African Union position argues that having Kenyatta and Ruto sit at trial undermines their duties. But the institute noted that the Rome Statute that created the ICC does not grant immunity for heads of state or other government officials.

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.

Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch said Kenya and Sudan, at an African Union summit this month, will try to persuade African countries to withdraw from the Rome Statute. He said Rwanda, which is pushing for the Security Council vote, and to a lesser extent Uganda fear the ICC could indict their leaders for supporting M23 rebels in Congo.

Thursday’s poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

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