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Africa

Kenyans: ‘We still have IDPs to this day’

It was what Kenyans had waited for with bated breath. Would Deputy President William Samoei Ruto’s trial in The Hague continue or would he be free at last? This is how Kenyans reacted to the news of the mistrial.

The news from the trial chambers of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the case against Ruto and his co-accused, journalist Joshua Arap Sang had been dismissed, was met with a wave of celebration amongst Ruto supporters throughout Kenya. In Rift Valley region, a Ruto stronghold, business came to a standstill.

In the capital Nairobi, the reactions were varied. "At least they should have considered the plight of the internally displaced people (IDP)," said businessman Fred Onyango. “Until today we have some internally displaced people who have not been resettled,” he pointed out.

In the wake of the election violence that rocked Kenya in late 2007 and 2008, over 1,000 people were killed and more than 600,000 had to flee their homes due to the ethnic violence. Neighbors torched each others houses, machetes were made into weapons and in the chaos, women were abused and raped. At the time, buses ferried people across the country to their ancestral homes or other ‘safe' places. Many were housed in IDP camps.

Kenyans fleeing post-election violence in January 2008, picture: (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)

Over 600,000 people were forced to flee their homes in the wake of the violence.

The ICC, a toothless tiger?

Onyango felt that the ICC had failed Kenyans. "What is the use of being a member? I think it is good to get rid of it all together," he added. Both Ruto and Arap Sang were accused of committing and inciting crimes against humanity that included murder, forcible transfer of population and persecution.

Based on an assessment of the evidence, the judges at the ICC had found that Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's team, had no case against Ruto and Arap Sang. Sixteen of the 42 witnesses had changed their stories or refused to testify. The prosecution team put this down to witness intimidation, bribery or fear of reprisals.

This is the second time that the ICC has admitted defeat in an attempt to bring to justice the instigators of the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya. The first time was when they dropped a similar case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Uhuru Kenyatta being cheerfully received by crowds after turning home from the ICC in 2014, picture: REUTERS/Noor Khamis

In October 2014, supporters lined the streets to greet President Kenyatta (right, next to Ruto) whose ICC case had just been dismissed.

Shadrack Odimbo a gospel music artist in Kenya says that he is satisfied with the ruling as he feared that there would be a repeat of the violence that Kenya witnessed in 2007. For the peace in Kenya, he was happy about the outcome, he told DW. In 2007 Odimbo lost his younger brother during the post-election violence. His mother, on the other hand is not satisfied with the court's ruling. "Her house was burned, she lost one of her children. My mum is not satisfied with the ruling because she cannot go back to the normal life that she used to have," he added.

A level playing field

Eddy Mwangi a Kenyan human rights activist also thought that that the ruling is good for the country's future. "The ruling had very sensitive reactions as far as Kenyan politics is concerned." The ruling, Mwangi said, had changed politics in terms of government and opposition. "We are going to celebrate that no one has been left at the ICC and we are going to be planning for peaceful elections ahead of 2017."

Wilfred Nderitu, a lawyer to the victims of the post-election violence on Wednesday said that the victims will not be appealing the court's decision.

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