Kenya gets into a definitive period this week as the world awaits the International Criminal Court verdict on whether the Ocampo Six should stand trial early next week. Most people are convinced that the two cases involving six Kenyans are likely to be sent to trial.
But regardless of whether the cases go to trial or not, the verdict will effectively alter the political landscape in the country and especially in regards to William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta – both key political players in the upcoming general elections.
Revelation that the suspects have to be at The Hague during the trial hearing must have caused panic among supporters of Uhuru and Ruto who are preparing to run for presidency later this year. The thought of the two being away from the country political scene could be very heartbreaking for their supporters.
However, I see a situation where its a win-win situation for the two as they prepare for the epic political battle against their common rival, Raila Odinga. Whichever way it goes, the ICC process will keep the two in the 2012 presidential ballot despite all the odds.
If the charges are confirmed, Uhuru and Ruto will definitely up the stakes in the race to State House to most probably ensure that they have the capacity to derail the ICC process by being in or close to the next government. On the flipside, the two will get enough propaganda fodder against Raila who they have often accused of being behind their ICC predicament.
Precedence at the ICC shows that trial in the Kenyan cases, if the charges are confirmed, would start at the earliest point in January 2013. None of the four cases currently in the trial stage at the ICC started less than a year after the charges were confirmed.
In the Lubanga (DRC) case, the trial started in 2009 – two years after the charges were confirmed, the Katanga (DRC) trial kicked off in 2009 after being confirmed in 2008 while the Bemba (CAR) trial kicked off one and a half years after confirmation in 2009. The Banda/Jerbo (Darfur) case in which charges were confirmed in March last year, the trial will kick off later this year.
It is therefore safe to assume that this year’s election will happen before the trials against the Ocampo Six kick off, if the charges are confirmed in the next two weeks. I am drawn to conclude that this will be a major driving force for Ruto and Uhuru in ensuring that it is either them or their friends who form the next government.
In the last 9 years, Ocampo is yet to successfully prosecute any of his cases with judges asking him now and again to give more evidence and clarify matters on his investigations. Even with the Kenyan case, Ocampo was sent back early 2010 to give more information on his preliminary investigations before the judges authorised investigation.
Either way, the two suspects will be on the ballot since the Constitution only bars those who have been convicted for sentences exceeding six months and in which all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.