Nakuru (Kenya) (AFP) – Kenya’s president and deputy president called for “reconciliation” Saturday following International Criminal Court (ICC) decisions to drop charges against them over 2007 post-election violence that rocked the country.
War crimes judges dropped cases against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta — the son of the country’s independence leader Jomo Kenyatta — at the end of 2014, and against deputy president William Ruto last week.
More than 1,300 people died and around 600,000 others were left homeless after disputed elections in 2007 in Kenya’s worst outbreak of violence since independence from Britain in 1963.
Ruto was charged with three counts of crimes against humanity — namely murder, forcible deportation and persecution during the 2007-2008 violence.
Kenyatta faced five charges including murder, rape and deportation for allegedly masterminding the post-election violence.
The ICC, however, said it was forced to declare the defendants had no case to answer because of a “relentless” campaign of witness intimidation as well as Nairobi’s refusal to cooperate, a charge that Kenya denies.
Speaking at a meeting in Nakuru, western Kenya, on Saturday, the president urged Kenyans to work together.
“We are not here to celebrate but to remember and pray for each other. We dedicate ourselves to reconciliation and building a stronger nation,” he said.
“We must reject ethnicity that builds animosity amongst our people. We must refuse to be divided,” he added.
Kenya has led a high-profile campaign against the ICC among African nations, accusing the tribunal of bias against the continent.
Of the nine investigations the court has opened so far, eight are African — Kenya, Ivory Coast, Libya, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Uganda, Mali and Georgia.
The 2007 post-election violence in Kenya broke out after Rila Odinga, a member of the Luo ethnic group who was then the opposition leader accused then president Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, of rigging his way to re-election.
What began as political riots quickly turned into ethnic killings of the Kikuyu people, who in turn launched reprisal attacks.
Despite speculation in the Kenyan press that the president and his deputy would use Saturday’s meeting to announce their intention to stand again in next year’s presidential elections, they studiously avoided any mention of the polls.