AMSTERDAM Two Kenyan politicians and a radio presenter meticulously planned and organised attacks on civilians to unleash a wave of violence after Kenya's disputed 2007 election, the war crimes court heard Thursday.
William Ruto, who has ambitions to run for president, Henry Kosgey, former industrialization minister, and Joshua Arap Sang, a broadcaster, attended the first of two sets of confirmation of charges hearings at the International Criminal Court -- which may try Libya's fugitive Muammar Gaddafi if he is caught.
This month's hearings will determine whether a total of six high-profile Kenyan politicians and senior officials should stand trial for crimes against humanity related to Kenya's election violence, including murder, rape and forcible transfer of people.
More than 1,220 people were killed in tribal violence after Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of a presidential election in 2007 that was marred by alleged vote-rigging.
"Mr Ruto, Mr Kosgey and Mr Sang are individually responsible for a widespread and systematic attack against civilians in Kenya's Rift Valley Province," Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC chief prosecutor, told the court.
"These massive crimes are a Kenyan problem...but they are not just a Kenyan problem. These are some of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole."
Moreno-Ocampo said that his evidence showed that the crimes were carefully planned and organised by Ruto and Kosgey "with a goal to gain political power."
He told the court that Ruto and Kosgey had capitalized on existing tensions in the region, providing weapons and bombs, and promising money and land as rewards to those who took part in the rioting.
Their aim, he said, was to drive Kibaki supporters out of some towns in the Rift Valley using a network of politicians, media representatives, financiers, tribal elders, local leaders and former members of the security forces.
Kenya's government had objected to the ICC proceedings because it said its adoption of a new constitution and other reforms paved the way for it to carry out its own prosecutions.
It was overruled earlier this week because it had failed to show it was conducting its own investigation of the six suspects.
If the ICC case goes ahead, it will cast a shadow over the run up to elections in 2012 in the East African country. Two of the suspects -- Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta, the current finance minister -- have said they want to run for president.
Ruto, a former higher education minister, said on August 28 that he was confident the ICC would drop its charges against him, but said he would run for president even if they were confirmed.
Analysts say Prime Minister Raila Odinga's camp is keen to have the ICC trials proceed so that his rivals -- including Ruto with whom he has fallen out and whom he dismissed from his post last month -- are excluded from running in the election next year.
"This is about the elections in 2012 and making sure they are peaceful," prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters in a separate interview.
"If you commit atrocities to gain power, you lose power and get a ticket to The Hague."
(Reporting by Sara Webb; Editing by Elizabeth Piper)