NAIROBI (Reuters) - Two Kenyan presidential hopefuls indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for allegedly inciting post-election violence said on Sunday they intend to join forces in next year’s vote by running on the same ticket.
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former cabinet minister William Ruto announced the deal at a rally hosted by Ruto’s United Republican Party and Kenyatta’s The National Alliance party in the Rift Valley town of Nakuru, 140 km northwest of the capital Nairobi.
Under the agreement, Kenyatta will seek the presidency and former rival Ruto will be his vice presidential running mate.
“We have agreed here to make a government with Uhuru Kenyatta as the president, and William Ruto will be the vice president. We have agreed that God-willing, next year URP and TNA will form the next government,” Ruto told thousands of supporters gathered in a stadium.
The Hague-based ICC said in July that four prominent Kenyans, including Kenyatta and Ruto, would be tried for their alleged roles in fuelling bloodshed in 2007 and 2008 that killed more than 1,200 people. All deny wrongdoing.
Their trials for crimes against humanity were set for April 2013, a month after presidential elections in east Africa’s largest economy.
Next year’s election will be the first under a new constitution and the first since the 2007 poll that led to the violence. Kenya had previously been a relative haven of peace in a troubled region.
Ruto and Kenyatta’s pairing raises the prospect of having Kenya’s sitting president under indictment in the Hague.
Although both have said they will heed the April summons, there is speculation they will not appear. Many western governments had wanted the two men to face the court before the election.
“We have agreed we are uniting on behalf of the people of Kenya. Our alliance is not for fighting anyone. We are uniting for the sake of the people of Kenya,” said Kenyatta.
A Kenyan non-governmental organization known as the International Centre for Peace and Conflict filed suit on Friday at the Kenyan High Court challenging Ruto and Kenyatta’s suitability for elective office, given their cases at the Hague. The suit was filed after a similar case against the two was withdrawn.
The indictment of an elected president would put Kenya in situation similar to that of Sudan, where President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is wanted by the ICC to face charges of genocide and other atrocities.
Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Roger Atwood