Leaders in the Rift Valley and Mt Kenya have reacted angrily at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for suggesting that Deputy President William Ruto be replaced during the time he is on trial.
Even though it was not a formal application, the fact that the prosecution was suggesting that President Uhuru Kenyatta should swear in an acting deputy president was enough to convince the residents that theICC was up to no good.
The Jubilee leaders said the suggestions from ICCProsecution counsel Anton Steynberg proved their argument from 2011 that “the ICC cases facing Uhuru and Ruto are political” and were meant to stop them rising to power.
Chepalungu MP Paul Bii said the suggestion by the Office of The Prosecutor was a confirmation that the case against the Kenyans has always been political.
“Kenya is a sovereign state with a constitution that cannot be made subordinate. This case should be disbanded as it goes on reminding us what we had forgotten and raising temperatures.
“There is concern already in the Rift Valley that the trials could reopen old wounds and undo reconciliation efforts by communities that once fought each other in deadly battles,” said Bii.
His Eldama Ravine counterpart Moses Lessonet added that Uhuru and his deputy both have powers to govern the country.
“The ICC prosecutor should not be blind to these facts. The country’s leadership is governed by the Constitution and that must go concurrently with the Rome Statue,” said Lessonet.
Lessonet said the ICC allowed the two leaders to take part in the March 4 General Election and the court was aware that the two might be elected as president and deputy president.
“The office of the prosecutor should not be blind to the fact that the two leaders were given a constitutional mandate by majority of Kenyans who voted for them,” he said.
At the same time, Emurua Dikirr MP Johanna Ng’eno said that Kenya’s constitution does not provide for an acting deputy vice president position so it was important for the ICC to allow Ruto to return to the country to help the president manage the situation.
“The Deputy President is not incapacitated. He is fit to carry out his constitutional duties. The attack at the Westgate shopping mall was an important issue and the country needed him here,” said nominated senator Liz Chelule.
Tiaty MP Asman Kamama, a close political ally of the Deputy President said: “The prosecution’s evidence must be thoroughly tested, the rights of the accused must be fully respected and victims and witnesses must be provided with effective protection and support.”
In Mt Kenya, the leaders are equally unhappy and have described the ICC proposal as “pure contempt for Kenyans”.
They expressed displeasure at the proposal by the prosecutor terming it ‘mischievous’.
Embu Senator Lenny Kivuti and Manyatta MP John Muchiri separately said the move was unconstitutional and exhibits the court’s disregard for African countries.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni echoed this accusation at the UN General Assembly where he saidICC was mishandling African issues.
Kivuti said ICC has no locus standi in deciding what happens in Kenya or any other African country.
“I am talking with authority because I have been there and have checked what they have. ICC is a junior status court that should not be enjoying the level of international recognition that it does,” Kivuti said.
Muchiri said the comment by the court, whether by omission or design, showed its officers are not conversant with the Constitution of Kenya.
“Such a thing is both unconstitutional and unacceptable,” he said.
In Murang’a residents reacted angrily over utterances by the ICC Prosecutor saying Kenya is a sovereign nation where there is no need for an acting deputy president.
They described the utterances as unwarranted as the post Ruto holds is a creation of the constitution and they would not allow it to be given in unconstitutional manner.
Murang’a governor Mwangi wa Iria said Ruto would remain the deputy president, as it will be against the constitution to have an acting DP.
“The post of deputy president is constitutional and has nothing to do with advice and proposals fromICC. The constitution does not have room for a leader on acting capacity,” said Wa Iria.
Murang’a County MP Sabina Chege termed the terms as unacceptable as Kenya has an operational constitution.
“We are an independent country with a constitution that must be respected by other nations and the ICC,” said the women leader.
When making an application for the deputy president to return to Kenya following the terrorist attack at the Nairobi Westgate shopping mall, Ruto’s defence had suggested that the ICC case proceeds without him in court.
But the prosecution said the case should be adjourned altogether till Ruto returns to The Hague and that is what the court did. Prosecution counsel Steynberg told the ICC judges that Ruto knew and has known for a considerable time now that a trial was pending before the ICC. In the prosecution’s submission, a responsible position would have been to put in place the necessary mechanisms for the country to function without him.
Asked by presiding judge Eboe-Osuji who would take up the duties, Steynberg said: “Well, delegation of his functions to another responsible individual is the first thing which comes to mind.
“Now, Kenya’s constitution is by no means unique when it requires that the deputy head of state be present at all times.
“The constitution of my own country is the same, and I’m sure many other countries. But from time to time it happens that neither the Head nor the deputy head of state is available or in the country, for reasons outside of their control. In my country this is dealt with by swearing somebody in as Acting Head of State,” he said.
– Reports by Alex Kiprotich, Steve Mkawale, Boniface Gikandi and Joseph Muchiri