ICC ruling doesn't stop Kenyan leaders' electoral ambitions

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Despite being charged with crimes against humanity Monday by the International Criminal Court's Pre-Trial Chamber, two Kenyan politicians said they intend to run for political office this year.

After the chamber confirmed charges against Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former Education Minister William Ruto announced their intention to run for the presidency.

“Let me state this, and categorically so, that these allegations against me have been, are and forever will be, strange to me,” William Ruto said at a news conference after the decision was announced.

The ICC said that the accused will be committed to a full trial and “their continued liberty is subject to their non-engagement in incitement of violence or hate speech.”

Kenyan Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka said the case moving to a full trial doesn’t mean the suspects are guilty.

“We must allow due process of the law, considering that this is an election year,” he said.

Following the announcement, President Mwai Kibaki appealed for calm in the country and called for the fast resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Kenyans displaced by the 2008 post-election violence that led to the charges against Kenyatta, Ruto and two other officials.

Kibaki's speech came against a backdrop of heightened security as locals worried over potential fallout in the coming days.

Jonathan Rotino, a local youth activist, said the message of peace is vital considering the emotional nature of the charges.

“What we need is justice to both the victims and the suspects,” Rotino said. “I guess the ruling is fair and it’s up to the suspects to prove to the trial judges that they are innocent, but most importantly, for Kenyans to remain peaceful. It is individuals who are charged and not any ethnic community.”

The decision itself should prevent any violence from taking place, said Osman Ahmed, an international relations student at United States International University in Nairobi.

“I think the decision will act as deterrence to those individuals who are planning any kind of violence. And for the ICC it is another chance for them to show that they have the credibility as an institution to handle such cases against high -profile individuals,” Ahmed said.