|Deputy President William Ruto’s trial is scheduled to begin on September 10. PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]|
By TITUS TOO
Kenya: Close to 50 Members of Parliament plan to travel to The Hague to join friends and relatives of Deputy President William Ruto at his trial next month.
The delegation is expected to dwarf that of victims’ representatives as the first trial for crimes against humanity committed after the 2007 election kicks off.
The Standard On Saturday has learned that lawmakers from across Kenya plan to accompany the Deputy President to the legal proceedings in “a show of solidarity”.
One of the MPs involved in the plan, Turbo’s Elisha Busienei, says the leaders will travel in four groups over the course of the first three weeks of Ruto’s trial.
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“MPs are registering themselves in Nairobi,” Busienei said. “One group will accompany him to The Hague. I will be in the group that will accompany him back home.”
He added two groups would visit the DP during the trial. He said the final number of people who register to travel would be out by Monday.
Mr Ruto’s trial at the International Criminal Court alongside Radio presenter Joshua Sang is scheduled to begin on September 10. The first sitting will run for three consecutive weeks before resuming after a ten-day break. The two face charges of murder, deportation and persecution in the greater Eldoret area in the early part of 2008.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda last week lost a battle to amend the charges to include crimes allegedly committed in Eldoret in late 2007, which she believed would have strengthened her case.
Multiple sources said Ruto has met repeatedly with his legal teams in the last couple of weeks to prepare his defence.
“His schedule has not been smooth sailing,” said a close aide who sought anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to the media.
“Occasionally, he has been forced to hold meetings with his legal team at short notice to streamline issues in readiness for the trial.”
On Monday, the ICC threw out a request to have the trial moved to Kenya or Tanzania in a close vote.
On Thursday, the judges rejected Ruto’s request for shorter trial sessions.
Citing need to ensure a speedy trial, the judges ruled his trial will run daily from September 10 to October 4 and from October 14 to November 1. The three-judge Bench led by Chile Eboe-Osuji will issue further sitting schedules in due course.
The DP will be present at The Hague courtroom every day for three weeks, with the exception of weekends when the court doesn’t sit.
Ruto had asked for two weeks on and two weeks off in the application the judges rejected.
He had made the application after Bensouda secured an interim ruling requiring he attends all his trial sessions until an appeal of an earlier ruling allowing him to skip parts of the trial is determined.
His appearance at the court will foreshadow the anticipated appearance of President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose trial is scheduled for November 12.
This is expected to be the first time a sitting Head of State appears in the ICC dock. The judges have promised no special treatment.
However, they agreed there might be need to modify the sitting schedules once Uhuru’s trial begins.
Ruto’s family at Kamoret village in Kamagut, Uasin Gishu are in prayers and awaiting communication from Nairobi over the plans.
His mother Sarah Cheruiyot Samoei says she will not travel, but will be engaged in prayers.
“I am yet to find out what my son’s family is organising in Nairobi,” she said. “I will not be in the trip because of the distance and the trial’s long duration.”
Instead, she says she will travel to Nairobi and stay with the family as she did during the confirmation of charges hearings, when Ruto went to the Netherlands with his wife Rachel. The couple has six children.
Ruto’s mother added she was optimistic her son would emerge without blame once the trial ends “because he did not do whatever he is being accused of”.
“I know he is innocent because Ruto does not harm anyone or even plot to do so. Even as a young man, he was not engaged in any squabbles,” Sarah stated.
Paul Maritim, Ruto’s elder brother, also said they have not received any word from the family in Nairobi but will make plans when the day closes in.
Mr Isaac Maiyo, a long time campaign manager of the DP, said he is making arrangements to be among those who travel to The Hague.
He added that the process should not be politicised, saying the truth will eventually come out.