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Africa

Brian Wanyama: "ICC trial could split Kenya"

As Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto is preparing to stand trial in The Hague, analysts worry that this might create a split in the ruling alliance.

William Ruto's trial at the International Criminal Court is about to begin. Both Ruto and Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta are accused of committing crimes against humanity and masterminding the 2007 post-election violence that left more than 1,200 dead and thousands homeless. By then Ruto and Kenyatta headed opposing political parties. In the run-up to the recent elections, the pair however formed a coalition and now head the country's government. DW spoke to Brian Singoro Wanyama, a political analyst in Kenya about the implications that the trial could have on this alliance.

DW: Do you think that Ruto will protect the alliance with Uhuru rather than tell it all?

Brian Singoro Wanyama: Actually the entire scenario of William Ruto's attendance at the ICC is a very tricky situation. One, is that he has a case to answer to and two is that he is the deputy president of the Republic of Kenya. I think he is finding himself at crossroads, as to how he might approach the case, given that whatever he answers at The Hague, might implicate him or the current president of Kenya. But as the case is, he would really want to be forthright, so that he can make a formidable defense with a view to extricating himself from the tight case that he seems to be facing.

Could the trials re-open old wounds and undo efforts of communities who once fought each other to live in harmony?

The situation is tricky as it touches on the president and deputy president who hail from different communities. One is from the Kalenjin community and another one from the Kikuyu community. So depending on how the witnesses who are going to give their evidence and from which side of the divide they come from, it will definitely have an impact. I think the really tricky scenario will emerge as the case goes on and various issues unfold at different stages in time.

How worried are you that the ICC process could split the country?

It is really worrisome tend that the ICC trial is actually bound to split the country. We are seeing a scenario where the president and deputy president belong to the Jubilee coalition of the government, which is the ruling party. Then you have the other side that is lead by the court. It is crystal clear, that the supporters of the Jubilee government are saddened and they must be hiding simmering anger at this unfolding unfortunate event. On the other side we have the people who are affected by the clashes. So we really have a scenario where the country is divided down the middle. People who were directly affected by the skirmishes are bound to be on one side. And the people from the communities where Ruto and Kenyatta come from also hold different views. When the case was first presented to the ICC, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were neither president nor deputy president. But now they are in charge of the country. I think that the view of many Kenyans is, that the president and his deputy going to The Hague, might create a power vacuum. So people will be affected in one way or another. One could for example mention that MPs from the Jubilee side of the government actually made utterances to the effect that the ICC might be a project of the CORD coalition. So there are already suspicions from either side of the divide.

How is this going to affect the internal organization of the Jubilee alliance?

It is bound to affect the internal organisation of the alliance. There is a school of thought who believed that the coming together [of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto] had a reason, which might have been the fact that both of them are facing the ICC trial. It is a matter of convenience for them to come together, maybe as a goal of shielding themselves against the trial. Given the fact that the two communities, Kikuyu and Kalenjin produced the president and deputy president, there might not be so much animosity. But as the case progresses, the witnesses who will present the evidence might trigger suspicions and animosities, between the URP and TNA, especially in matters of the organisation at party level and government level.

Brian Singoro Wanyama is a political analyst and works at Kenya's Masinde Muliro University.

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