NAIROBI (Reuters) - Several hundred people protested in Kenya’s capital on Thursday over the naming of suspects in election violence by the International Criminal Court (ICC), but a human rights group said those named should quit their posts.
The Hague-based court on Wednesday said three Kenyan cabinet ministers and a former police chief helped mastermind the deadly violence that rocked the east African country following disputed presidential elections in December 2007.
The news did not affect Kenya’s markets. But analysts said the ICC process could destabilize the country’s fragile coalition government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga set up to end the bloodshed.
In another move, Kenya’s parliament began debating a motion to withdraw from the Rome Statute that establishes the Hague court and block the court from prosecuting the suspects.
About 300 protesters meandered peacefully through some streets in Nairobi, shouting demands that the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo should drop his case against Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Secretary to the Cabinet, Francis Muthaura.
Traffic police shepherded the protesters through designated roads in what appeared to be an organized demonstration.
The protesters were led by three members of parliament, and waved placards that read “Uhuru is our hero!,” “Ocampo’s list is fake!” and “(We) want a local tribunal!”
Prominent among the six suspects were deputy prime minister Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta, and William Ruto, the higher education minister who has been suspended to fight a corruption case.
Moreno-Ocampo said the charges include murder, forcible transfer of population, political persecution, torture and rape.
The suspects said on Wednesday they would go voluntarily to The Hague as they were confident they could clear their names.
President Mwai Kibaki reiterated on Thursday that he would take no action yet against the suspects because the ICC case was not complete, and also called for peace countrywide.
However, the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) said the six suspects should quit their posts.
“We are not saying they are guilty we are saying that it is imperative that if you are under investigation, you should not be sitting in the same office where you have ... access to information that may be required in your own investigation,” said Florence Jaoko-Simbiri, KNCHR’s chairwoman.
More than 1,220 people died and 350,000 were displaced in the mayhem that followed the general election, severely damaging Kenya’s reputation for stability in a turbulent region.
The ICC case is intended to act as a deterrent against violence in future elections, next due in 2012, demonstrating that politicians who instigate mayhem will be punished.
The motion to withdraw Kenya from the Rome Statute was sponsored by Isaac Ruto, who is allied to, but not related to, the higher education minister of the same name.
“The intention of my motion is to state the mood of this house and the country as a whole. The Rome Statute allows the withdrawal of a country and we must be in a position to exercise our right to do so as a country,” he said in parliament.
No date has been set for a vote on the motion, which Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo opposed: “We cannot act on emotions; we cannot act out of fears but follow the law.”
Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Jon Boyle