By Wahome Thuku and Evelyne Kwamboka
The Hague Prosecutor stunned Kenya’s defence teams by readily accepting their call for delay in starting trials, but it now turns out there could have been a hidden intention.
The defence teams are now mulling over the assumption of office by a new Prosecutor, taking over from Luis Moreno-Ocampo, and the fact she has until March when the trials start to tie the loose ends in the cases she inherits.
Initially it appeared that the prosecution would adamantly push for trials within weeks and the defence would have to justify their demand for a date after the General Election, other than the fact that it would allow the two presidential contenders indicted for crimes against humanity to run.
But the suspicion among the legal teams for the accused is that the new Prosecutor, Gambia’s Fatou Bensouda who deputised Moreno-Ocampo, is using the extended waiting period to fill in the gaps in the evidence.
They also suspect that the Prosecution could have found out that its evidence has some gaps and loose ends that need be addressed, to strengthen its case.
During the extended period, the allies of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto, who are already on the presidential campaign trail, hoped to use the period to gather a million signatures to persuade ICC on the popularity of the call to delay the trial until after polls, ostensibly to boost national unity.
The defence teams for Uhuru, Ruto and other two accused – former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura and Kass FM’s head of operations Joshua arap Sang – now doubt the prosecutor’s intentions.
This comes as the defence is preparing to fight any attempts by the prosecution to introduce alternative charges against presidential aspirants Ruto, Uhuru, and Muthaura. Their legal teams do, in fact, believe that the prosecutor is gathering fresh evidence on against their clients.
ICC has in the meantime embarked on an outreach programme to sensitise Kenyans in the Rift Valley ahead of the trials. The region was the epicentre of 2007-2008 post-election violence. ICC gave an assurance, believed to be aimed at taming anxiety in the region that Ruto and Sang would not be detained at The Hague when trials, which the accused have to sit through, start.
“No warrants have been issued and the court has not issued any statements indicating they would be detained. They are free and remain innocent until proved guilty,” assured ICC field public information and outreach officer Maria Kamara.