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Kenyans rally for 2 politicians accused of crimes against humanity

From David McKenzie, CNN
William Ruto addresses supporters on Monday in Nairobi after his return from the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
William Ruto addresses supporters on Monday in Nairobi after his return from the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto have just returned from The Hague
  • They are among six people accused of crimes against humanity after the 2007 election
  • More than a thousand people were killed after the disputed election

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- Several thousand Kenyans attended a rally Monday for two prominent politicians who have been implicated in crimes against humanity and brought before the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands.

Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and member of Parliament William Ruto had just returned from the court, where they face multiple counts of crimes against humanity for the bloody post-election violence that wracked Kenya in late 2007 and early 2008.

"We are prepared to carry this cross," Ruto said. "We are determined never again that Kenyans will fight over polls."

The rally was billed as a prayer meeting, but it took the form of a political event, with dozens of members of Parliament from across the country showing their support for the embattled officials.

Kenya's Hague justice
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Speakers at the rally in Nairobi's Uhuru Park repeatedly blamed the International Criminal Court case on politics and Western meddling. But chief prosecutor at The Hague, Louis Moreno Ocampo, took the brunt of the criticism.

Ocampo has repeatedly denied that the case is political in any way.

The post-election violence occurred after a disputed election in December 2007. More than a thousand people were killed, the majority by security forces, and hundreds of thousands were displaced from their homes.

Local media reported that en route from the airport to Uhuru Park, the convoy holding the politicians was stoned by frustrated youth.

Despite the political pleas for support, many Kenyans support the Hague process and at least one major broadcaster refused to show the rally live, as is customary by news broadcasters in Kenya.

Kenyatta is the son of the iconic founder of modern Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, the nation's first president.

In addition to him and Ruto, the former agriculture minister, four others also are accused of organizing the post-election violence. They are Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura, former national police Chief Hussein Ali, opposition leader Henry Kosgey and radio journalist Joshua Arap Sang.

The chaos and violence after the 2007 election escalated into ethnic violence pitting supporters of incumbent President Mwai Kibaki against those of challenger Raila Odinga, who was later named prime minister in a power-sharing agreement.

Muthaura, Kenyatta and Ali are accused of committing or contributing to the killing, rape and other acts of violence against supporters of Odinga's opposition Orange Democratic Movement. The International Criminal Court set a September 21 date to hear arguments as to whether they should go to trial.

Ruto, Sang and Kosgey are accused of being involved in the murder, deportation and commission of other offenses against supporters of Kenya's Party of National Unity. The court set a September 1 date for their arguments.

Ekaterina Trendafilova, the presiding judge, said if more crimes are committed, the court could replace summonses with arrest warrants.

"It came to the knowledge of the chamber through following some articles in the Kenyan newspapers that there are movements toward retriggering the violence in Kenya, by way of delivering dangerous speeches," the judge said.

Kenya has challenged the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, saying its own authorities will investigate and prosecute the cases on Kenyan soil.

The Netherlands-based court calls itself, on its website, "an independent international organization ... established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community."

 
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