Survey: Kenyans foresee Ruto ICC conviction

Half of Kenyans believe that either Deputy President William Ruto or journalist Joshua arap Sang will be convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

This is according to a new poll released by Ipsos Ltd, a local research group that measures public opinions on topical issues.

However, 33 per cent of those polled strongly disagreed with the conviction prediction.

The findings by Ipsos comes in the same week ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the court that she did not have enough evidence to sustain a charge against the DP and Sang.

Bensouda said her case had been weakened significantly by the withdrawal of key witnesses. The court is yet to give direction on her request to admit evidence from witnesses who recanted their testimonies.

Fifty-three per cent of those interviewed believe that violence could occur should the DP be found guilty while 33 per cent believe there will be no violence.

The cases Ruto and Sang are facing are in relation to the 2007/2008 post-election violence, which claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced thousands more.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Kikuyu community and Ruto’s Kalenjin were at the centre of the violence, especially in the Rift Valley, which was hit hardest.

However, when campaigning for the presidency, Kenyatta and Ruto said their political union would end decades of ethnic animosities between the two communities, often fanned by political competition.

Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, whose constituency was one of those worst affected by the 2007/2008 chaos, dismissed fears of a repeat of the violence as unfounded.

“I see no reason for violence to occur. The Kalenjin and the Kikuyu are living in peace and I don’t see anything changing that for now. The Kikuyus are happy with the DP and how he is working with the President. We pray that his case ends soon,” he said.

And the deputy director of communications at the DP’s office, Emmanuel Talam, said, “The matter is in court and I don’t know what business Ipsos has with a judicial matter.”

The Ipsos research, which was done between March 28 and April 27, also found that most Kenyans wanted the case facing Sang and Ruto terminated.

Thirty-three per cent said the case ought to continue as it is while eight per cent said the case should continue at the ICC but without the presence of the accused.

The company interviewed 1,964 people across the country and it claims that its findings have a 95 per cent confidence level, with a margin of error of 2.2 per cent.

On whether the country should withdraw from the Rome Treaty that established the ICC, as Parliament voted in 2013, Kenyans are split down the middle.

However, the report noted major regional variations on the matter, which it said was largely reflective of the political divisions across the county.

Support for the move was the highest in the Central region (76 per cent) and lowest at the Coast (26 per cent), which roughly corresponds to the levels of support the two main coalitions got in the March 2013 General Election.

The majority of Kenyans, 54 per cent, are also in support of setting up an African Human Rights Court as a substitute to the ICC. Forty per cent are opposed to it.

Again when analysed through political lenses, the regional views on the subject are reflective of political divisions. The highest support for the court was in Central Kenya at 79 per cent and lowest in Nyanza, where only 32 per cent of the population supported it.

In January, President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged $1 million (Sh98 million) for establishment of such a court. However, no other African country has pledged financial support so far.

The conclusion of Ruto’s case will free the Jubilee coalition to plan more confidently for the 2017 elections and possibly the 2022 poll as well.

Political pressure

Recently, the ICC case against the DP took political dimensions amid increased political pressure on him from his United Republican Party rebels and a reinvigorated Kanu party.

About a month ago, Ruto accused some of his political opponents of seeking to capitalise on his ICC case to topple him as the kingpin of the Kalenjin community’s politics.

With her admission that she lacks enough evidence against Ruto and Sang, Bensouda is on the verge of losing her second case regarding the violence.

In December last year, she was forced to withdraw charges against President Uhuru, citing insufficient evidence and non-cooperation by the Kenyan Government.

Soon after she withdrew the charges, she asked the ICC Trial Chamber to refer Kenya to Assembly of State Parties (ASP) for declining to disclose Kenyatta’s bank and phone records.