Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto has called on the international community to closely watch the campaigns for the country’s August General Election, citing recent violent skirmishes witnessed at his public rallies.
In a protest letter to President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party is alleging police inaction in the face the campaign violence. The letter is copied to the officials of the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the International Criminal Court (ICC).
On the ICC radar
The EU and the AU regularly send observers to Kenyan elections while the ICC is believed to have put Kenya on its radar since it was called in to investigate the killings and displacements that followed the disputed presidential vote of 2007 and subsequent worst election-related violence in 2007 and 2008.
President Kenyatta and Dr Ruto were among six Kenyans initially indicted and prosecuted over the post-election violence, before their cases collapsed for lack evidence or withdrawal of witnesses.
The trial of a Kenyan lawyer accused of bribing witnesses to defeat Dr Ruto’s case is ongoing at The Hague-based court.
The start of the trial, amid heightened political activity in Kenya, sparked conspiracy theories among the deputy president’s supporters about an alleged scheme to frustrate his presidential ambitions.
In the protest letter to the president, UDA is blaming the attempts to disrupt meetings addressed by the DP on a plot to block him from campaigning in the perceived strongholds of his main rival Raila Odinga.
Mr Odinga, in his fifth attempt for the top seat with the backing of President Kenyatta, has distanced his supporters from the violence at Dr Ruto’s rallies and accused the DP of crying wolf.
The police spokesman has also defended the law enforcement body, saying it was politically non-partisan.
On Thursday, President Kenyatta appeared to dismiss Dr Ruto’s complaints, urging the police to ignore alleged attempts to intimidate them while performing their duty.
Political zoning, where candidates and their parties seek to lock out rivals from campaigning in their perceived support base, is a common practice in Kenyan political landscape, on and off election season.
Reports of past independent investigations into election-related violence, including the Justice Waki Commission that probed the 2007/2008 bloodletting, have identified political zoning and ethnic profiling as a key trigger.
The country’s major political parties and leading politicians, including the two front runners — Raila and Ruto — in this year’s race to succeed President Kenyatta, have their core support base in regions where their respective ethnic communities are demographically dominant.
Ahead of the August elections, security agencies and the anti-hate watchdog have put many of Mr Odinga’s and Dr Ruto’s perceived strongholds on watch for potential violence and hate speech flashpoints.
Dr Ruto himself has recently had to issue a public apology over reports of use of hate speech at a public rally he addressed in his backyard of Eldoret on January 8.
The rally, one of several he addressed during his campaign tour of three counties in the Rift Valley region considered his political stronghold, were marred by media reports of ethnic incitement or racial slurs attributed to some of his close political allies.
The most sensational were the madoadoa remarks made by Meru Senator Mithika Linturi asking local residents not to tolerate people among them opposed to the Deputy President.
The use of the term madoadoa (Kiswhahili for blemishes) on political platforms in Kenya often evokes sensitivities about past politically instigated attacks in Rift Valley targeting ethnic communities deemed outsiders.