By Emeka-Mayaka Gekara firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Saturday, October 1 2011 at 22:00
Posted Saturday, October 1 2011 at 22:00
- Prime Minister’s inner circle is worried that Kenyatta’s testimony seeks to place ‘political responsibility’ for the post-election violence on the ODM leader
The testimony of Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta at the International Criminal Court blaming Prime Minister Raila Odinga for the post-election violence has caused panic among allies of the Premier.
The PM’s allies went into a post-mortem crisis meeting to discuss the consequences of the direction Mr Kenyatta took in his testimony.
The meeting was prompted by concerns that Mr Kenyatta had adopted a line of defence targeted at ensuring that the ODM leader and presidential hopeful bore ultimate “political responsibility” for failing to refrain his supporters from acts of violence. (READ: Uhuru blames violence on Raila)
Mr Kenyatta’s lawyer, Steven Kay, last week ran video clips before the court capturing Mr Odinga calling for mass action which, he argued, fuelled the 2007/2008 chaos.
Probably because of the high profile State officials involved, the confirmation of charges hearing for the second case has attracted greater national attention — from State House, government offices to villages and hamlets where ordinary Kenyans have been glued to their TV screens monitoring the proceedings from The Hague.
It is understood that President Kibaki has been keenly following the televised hearings from State House in the company of his advisers.
The other suspects in the second case are the President’s permanent secretary and Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura and postmaster-general Hussein Ali who commanded the police force when the violence flared.
Sources familiar with ODM affairs told the Sunday Nation that last week’s meeting was the second one since the ICC confirmation hearings started.
The first one was held during Mr Ruto’s testimony.
According to the respected Indian Ocean Newsletter, the Friday, September 23 crisis meeting was attended by Lands minister James Orengo, joint Government Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo, Mr Odinga’s brother and Finance assistant minister Oburu Oginga and Mr Karoli Omondi, the administrative secretary in the Prime Minister’s office.
Mr Odinga, who was in New York when the meeting took place, has been uncharacteristically quiet on the hearings.
“The participants at this meeting were very worried that Kenyatta’s defenders were gathering evidence to show that Odinga should also bear a share of the responsibility for the bloody confrontations in 2008,” says the newsletter.
“Up to then, they had been quite optimistic about Kenyatta’s indictment by the ICC and would, therefore, not run against Odinga in the presidential election. But they are now considering the opposite eventuality.”
Mr Kenyatta’s defence has painted him as a peace maker who was trying to help victims of Odinga-inspired violence, an argument made by the suspect when he took the bull by its horns and faced his accusers on Wednesday.“He (Mr Odinga) had political responsibility. If he did not hold press conferences using strong language in that period, if he followed due process and went to court and lastly had he used his political voice to tell supporters to stop the violence, the level of violence would not have been what it was,” testified Mr Kenyatta
Notably, Mr Odinga was also mentioned in the first case involving nemesis, Eldoret North MP Wlliam Ruto and in an almost similar tone.
In their submissions, lawyers for Ruto and Kass FM presenter Joshua arap Sang accused ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo of ignoring witness testimonies touching on Mr Odinga.
“Witnesses have said that they recognised Raila Odinga as the ODM leader and that he funded the presidential campaign in which he was a candidate. However, no effort has been made to bring him before this court,” said Mr David Hooper for Mr Ruto.
ODM chairman Henry Kosgey is also a suspect in the first case. All the six Kenyans are facing charges of crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 2007/8 post-election violence.
Mr Moreno-Ocampo is on record as saying that he had no evidence linking President Kibaki and Mr Odinga with the violence.
Mr Midiwo on Saturday declined to comment on the matter, saying he was burying a close relative.
Mr Orengo didn’t take calls from the Sunday Nation. But a Cabinet minister from the ODM wing of the coalition, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter, spoke of an earlier meeting following similar concerns emerging from the confirmation hearings in the Ruto and Co case in which Mr Odinga’s name was mentioned.
During the meeting, ODM ministers and assistant ministers at the time said it was resolved that Mr Odinga should refrain from commenting on the ICC matter, on the advice of Mr Orengo.
“There were those who argued that the PM should make a formal statement over the accusations at The Hague or even send a legal representative to the hearings,” he told Sunday Nation. “But Mr Orengo and other MPs advised that since the Prime Minister was not being mentioned by Mr Moreno-Ocampo, he should remain silent and exercise restraint,” he said.
This, perhaps, explains the silence by key sections of ODM on the hearings. Both the prosecution and defence arguments have dragged in State House and Mr Odinga.
The Kenyan cases at the ICC which involve two presidential candidates — Kenyatta and Ruto — are marked by strong political overtones hinging on the 2012 succession.
Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto have weaved a narrative aimed at helping them score both political points at home as well as exonerating themselves from the allegations.
The cases have also rekindled old political rivalries pitting the Kenyatta and Odinga families which have characterised Kenyan politics since independence.
Mr Kenyatta has blamed Mr Odinga for his troubles with accusations that the PM had orchestrated the case to eliminate him from the 2012 presidential elections.
Mr Odinga has dismissed the claim.
Mr Kenyatta and his defence team have put up a spirited fight to counter the prosecution’s allegations.
His supporters sounded pleased at the way he answered questions from the prosecutor on his alleged links to outlawed Mungiki group and alleged clandestine meetings at State House.