Fear factor: Azimio, Kenya Kwanza in ICC threats as Mt Kenya wary of 'handshake' effects

When President William Ruto and former President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed wanainch outside Harambe House after Uhuru's arrival from the Hague over the 2007/08 post-election violence. [File, Standard]

The political brinkmanship by President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza administration and Opposition Chief Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition deepened in the last few days as both sides vowed to take the battle to court.

Even as both sides last evening announced that they had agreed to set up a 10-member committee to peacefully resolve issues facing the country, The Standard has established the two camps are keen to take each other down through legal means at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and are in the process of building cases.

In Kenya Kwanza’s fold, the team has identified Raila and former President Uhuru Kenyatta for allegedly sponsoring chaos in the country and wants ICC to set a date with them.

This has been buoyed by the efforts of a group claiming to be victims of the anti-government protests that have written to ICC prosecutor Karim Khan to investigate the former head of State and Raila.

Raila’s allies, on the other hand, are also at an advanced stage in drafting a petition to present to several regional and international bodies to bring Ruto’s government to book over cases of human rights violations and alleged ethnic profiling by the police.

Sources in Azimio including Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma, who is part of the legal team, confirmed to Sunday Standard that they have identified the ICC, the East African Court of Justice, United Nations Special Committee on Extra-judicial Killings as well as the Africa Union as institutions they will approach to find justice for their supporters.

According to Kaluma, the paperwork and collection of evidence are at an advanced stage. He described their evidence as solid and impeccable.

Azimio claims they have documented videos, pictures, recorded witness statements as well as the profiles of several victims of police brutality, and are finalising their document.

Former president Uhuru Kenyatta and Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga lay flowers at SKM Command Centre in memory of those killed or maimed in demos. With them are and Kalonzo Musyoka and Jeremiah Kioni, among other leaders. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

They have also documented the type of bullets that were used by police officers to disperse protestors as well as the type of injuries victims of police brutality sustained to build their case on crimes against humanity.

The two camps claim they are prepared for a mega legal battle to pin down leaders they claim are responsible for the loss of lives that have been witnessed in the last couple of months.

Observers, however, believed Azimio has a stronger case against the government, arguing that the crimes that have been committed by the State against peaceful protestors amount to crimes against humanity.

According to constitutional lawyers Otieno Ragot and Wilfred Nderitu, the attacks against protestors appear to have been calculated by security agencies.

“The demonstrations by the opposition were planned and police were notified but their response was brutal and violated human rights. The government has no response to the case,” says Ragot.

“What happened in some places, for example Kisumu, is completely discernible. The cases where police officers attacked residents even in their houses put the security agencies in a bad position,” said Nderitu.

But as the political bickering continues, residents hoping for a solution to the political woes have begun feeling the pinch of the high cost of living after the Finance Act, 2023 came into effect.

The developments put into question the prospects of an immediate solution to the political tensions between the two camps. In the last two days, both sides appeared to strengthen their hardline positions amid faint flickers of hope for dialogue.

In Azimio, the reemergence of former President Uhuru into its activities appears to have emboldened the coalition for a continuation of the ride of dissent against the ruling Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

Today, the coalition will unveil new set of actions against the government with the coalition’s principals expected to ratify the bid to unleash a legal challenge against Kenya Kwanza over the killing of protestors. The supporters of the former president believe he is also a victim of Kenya Kwanza’s political excesses and are prepared for a pushback.

Yesterday, The Sunday Standard established that Kenya Kwanza has also opted to take the battle to Azimio’s doorstep through a legal challenge at the ICC targeting the coalition’s leaders.

Observers, however, believe the two camps are using the ICC legal weapon as a deterrent to scare the key political players in both camps to admit to a political solution.

A senior member of the ruling alliance told Sunday Standard that plans are underway to bring to book leaders allegedly sponsoring violence by way of the protests organised by the opposition.

“Nobody has the monopoly of lodging cases at the ICC. We also have a strong case against Azimio and we will follow that channel to bring justice to Kenyans,” said the legislator.

Although the legislator denied confirming if Kenya Kwanza is behind the push by an independent group to find justice through the international court, the plans are also allegedly at an advanced stage.

The group claiming to be victims of anti-government protests has called upon ICC to take decisive action against Raila and Uhuru, claiming that they are the sponsors of the mass protests.

Their claim mirrors the statements that key allies of President Ruto including Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua have been fronting, to pile the blame on Raila and Uhuru for the loss of lives and destruction of property during the protests.

In a letter written to the ICC, the group wants the Azimio leaders to be held accountable for allegedly attempting to cause political instability in the country.

Through their lawyer, Adrian Kamotho Njenga, the group has alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Kenya in a letter addressed to Khan following the anti-government protests.

The letter dated July 28 claims the group is in possession of volumes of evidence against the Azimio principals.

The letter, which outlines events after the 2022 elections, states that the transition after President Ruto’s lawful declaration as president by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has been tainted by a campaign of hate, disinformation, and violence.

“We shall be extremely pleased to avail ourselves to you of all the evidentiary material in the proper order of time and on a suitable occasion,” read the letter.

President William Ruto shakes hands with Azimio's Raila Odinga in a past event. [File, Standard]

“Astounding to our client is the callous manner in which Hon. Odinga and Hon. Kenyatta continue to sponsor a wave of terror and deadly violence codenamed “Maandamano” against innocent citizens and law enforcement agencies,” Kamotho said.

He added that these actions are calculated to cause panic and bloodshed to exploit the resulting chaos for political gain.

According to the group, the calls for mass action have led to widespread violence, ethnic clashes, and heinous crimes that shook the conscience of humanity.

As part of their plea to the ICC, the victims pledge to provide extensive evidence of a conspiracy between Uhuru and Raila to destabilise the democratically elected government of Kenya.

The letter concludes with an appeal to the ICC Prosecutor to swiftly investigate and prosecute all individuals implicated in crimes within the court’s jurisdiction, irrespective of their status.

Yesterday, however, Azimio’s lawyers described the letter as a distraction aimed at avoiding the real issues and crimes against humanity committed by the police.

 Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, who is leading a team of about 300 lawyers in a bid to find justice for victims of police brutality, said they are unterred in their quest for justice for victims targeted by the government.

“ICC does not deal with the exercise of constitutional rights, including rights to protest, picket, or petition. ICC deals with crimes and it is clear the crimes committed in Kenya have been committed by President Ruto’s regime,” he said.

According to Amollo, the police targeted innocent and unarmed civilians who were exercising their constitutional right to picket.

Kaluma also echoed his comments and said that the evidence they had collected indicated that the police had committed genocide.

“The government has replaced the specialised police units with a killer squad that targeted innocent protestors. Most of the victims were shot in the head,” said Kaluma.

According to Mark Bichachi, a political commentator, it is still unclear whether the crimes that were committed amounted to crimes against humanity.

“The case against Raila and Uhuru will fall flat on its face because there is uncertainty whether they actually planned chaos. It will require a probe,” said Bichachi.