Two presidential aspirants on Tuesday vowed to forge ahead with their campaigns even if the International Criminal Court indicts them over the 2008 election violence.
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto insisted they would be in the race for the top seat irrespective of what The Hague court rules.
The remarks come just days before the ICC releases its verdict on the pair and four others alleged to have planned, sponsored and executed the chaos in which 1,133 people were killed and 650,000 uprooted from their homes. (READ: Kenya chaos suspects to know fate on January 23)
The others are Tinderet MP Henry Kosgey, Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura, radio presenter Joshua arap Sang and Postmaster-General Hussein Ali.
Mr Kenyatta said on Tuesday after launching the 2012 public Budget hearings at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre:
“My campaign is not anchored on the ICC process, but on an agenda that I have for the country. These are processes that will ultimately come to an end and should not derail our campaigns.
“What is important is for Kenyans not to panic but to remain calm and maintain peace and continue to build the country.”
Separately, Mr Ruto said he was confident that his latest political vehicle, United Republican Party (URP) would form the next government.
“We are going to mobilise support from every part of the country and make sure we are in the next government... the ICC ruling will not distract my course to change the living standards of Kenyans,” he said.
But a civil society group urged the two to step aside if the court rules that they had a case to answer.
The ICC clarified on Monday that the provisions of the Rome Statute did not bar Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto from vying for elective positions even if the charges were confirmed. (READ: Uhuru and Ruto can still run, clarifies ICC)
ICC head of public affairs Fadi El Abdallah, in response to questions on the implications of the court’s verdict, said the decision on whether or not the politicians could vie for the presidency lay with Kenyan courts.
“A candidate’s eligibility in Kenya is governed by Kenyan laws, not by the Rome Statute.
Principles of leadership
“It is for the Kenyan authorities to interpret and apply the national law in that regard,” the ICC said in a paid up advert in daily newspapers.
Chapter Six of the Constitution stipulates that the guiding principles of leadership include “selection on the basis of personal integrity, competence and suitability, or election in free and fair elections’’.
Some analysts say the personal integrity of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto will come into serious question if they are charged with the murder, rape and displacement of Kenyans during the 2007/08 election violence.
A member of the Cabinet sub-committee handling the ICC cases said they were awaiting the ruling before taking a position on Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta’s presidential ambitions.
“Once the decision is taken one way or the other, the Cabinet sub-committee dealing with ICC matters will seek an opinion from the State Law office.
“At the moment, the sub-committee has not discussed the matter,” said the member, who sought anonymity in line with the oath of secrecy binding ministers from disclosing Cabinet matters.
Attorney-General Githu Muigai, who is in charge of the State Law Office, could not be reached for comment.
But the Institute of Education in Democracy (IED) demanded that the two politicians suspend their ambitions until they were fully cleared of the charges facing them.
“Whereas the law may not expressly bar these individuals from running for high office even if the charges are confirmed, the Constitution sets such a high pedestal on issues of integrity, ethics and morality that it is incumbent upon all of us Kenyans to demand of these people to set an example by stepping aside once questions about their integrity are raised.
“It is very much like the allegations facing the Deputy Chief Justice,” said IED executive director Peter Alingo.
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Ahmed Isaack Hassan declined to take a stand on the matter when contacted. “We will cross that bridge when we reach it, that is all I can say,” he said.
But Nairobi Metropolitan minister Njeru Githae, who is a lawyer, maintained that there was no law stopping Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto from pursuing their presidential ambitions.
“We are praying that the charges are dropped so that they continue with their presidential ambitions. Before the charges are confirmed, one is deemed not to be facing any charges,” Mr Githae argued.
“Even when the charges are confirmed, one is still deemed to be innocent. Until the charges are proven, there is no criminal, civil, social, political or economic liability on the accused,” he added.
Former Law Society of Kenya vice chairman James Mwamu said the decision on whether Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto can vie for the presidency if the charges are confirmed rested with the IEBC.
“Whereas article 25 of the Constitution dealing with ICC does not stop them from contesting, the IEBC will have to look at Chapter Six of the Constitution and weigh whether the charges facing them amount to a breach of the Integrity chapter,” Mr Mwamu said.
But Mr Charles Keter, a supporter of Mr Ruto, argued that Chapter Six of the Constitution only applied to crimes of an economic nature.