The International Criminal Court (ICC) has lost public support in Kenya, according to two recent opinion polls, but The Hague-based court remains the preferred option for seeking justice for the victims of the election violence of five years ago.
These are the first polls to be released since Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta was declared president in March. Kenyatta faces five counts of crimes of humanity before the ICC, while, in a separate case before the court, his deputy William Samoei Ruto faces three counts of crimes against humanity. Ruto is charged in the same case as radio journalist Joshua arap Sang, who also faces three counts of crimes against humanity.
Public support dropped to 39 percent in June this year, according to a poll released on July 10 by the independent polling firm, Ipsos Synovate. This is a drop of 16 percentage points from April last year when Ipsos Synovate found that support for the ICC process was at 55 percent.
This is the most significant drop in support for the ICC since Ipsos Synovate began polling the issue in October 2010. In the past, support for the ICC process has oscillated between 68 percent (the highest recorded, in October 2010) and 55 percent (the lowest). Support for the court has never before dropped below the 50 percent mark.
However, this comparison only offers an indication of the drop in support for the ICC process because in the July 2013 poll Ipsos Synovate also asks respondents whether they support a local tribunal or no judicial process at all. In previous polls on the ICC, Ipsos Synovate has not asked respondents whether they support an alternative judicial process to the ICC or none at all; respondents have only been asked whether they support the ICC process.
The same respondents, however, do not support an African pull-out of the ICC. Half of them, or 50 percent, said they were against African states pulling out of the ICC if the Kenya cases are not referred to Kenyan or East African jurisdiction. Forty-one percent said they supported such a move, while another seven percent said they were not sure. This question arises because of a discussion during the May African Union summit of heads of state. The initial discussions revolved around the possibility of having the Kenya cases referred to the Kenyan national criminal justice system, but eventually the AU leaders resolved to ask the United Nations Security Council terminate the Kenya cases at the ICC.
A separate poll conducted by South Consulting also shows that support for the ICC in Kenya has dropped but not by as wide a margin as that in the Ipsos Synovate poll. The South Consulting poll has not been made public yet, but ICC Kenya Monitor obtained a copy. The poll will form part of the final report of the Panel of African Eminent Personalities chaired by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan. The panel mediated an end to the violence that followed the December 2007 presidential election in Kenya and which is the subject of the cases before the ICC. South Consulting has been preparing monitoring reports for the panel since 2009 and these are posted on the panel’s website.
South Consulting found that 50 percent of respondents are either very happy or somewhat happy with the ICC prosecuting Kenyatta, Ruto, and Sang. This is a five percentage point drop from South Consulting’s last poll on the subject published in May last year when it found 55 percent of respondents were happy with the ICC prosecuting the Kenya cases.
South Consulting has been asking the public since June 2011 whether they are happy with the ICC prosecuting the Kenya cases. Each poll has marked a decline in the number of people who say they are happy with the ICC pursuing the cases, with the highest recorded in June 2011 at 89 percent. This was just after the then six Kenyan suspects made their initial appearance before the court. The consistent decline in the number of people happy with the ICC pursuing the cases mirrors the dwindling number of suspects in the Kenya cases. There are now three Kenyans facing trial at the ICC, down from the six people during the pre-trial phase.
This is reflected in the explanations the different sets of respondents give. One of the key reasons given by those who are unhappy with the ICC prosecuting the Kenya cases is that they believe the people before the court are not the real suspects. In June 2011, nine percent of them believed this to be true. This number has risen to its highest in the latest poll where 33 percent of them are unhappy with the ICC pursuing the Kenya cases because they do not believe the ICC has the real suspects.
A similar trend is discernible when South Consulting asked respondents whether they support the prosecution of the Kenya cases at the ICC. In the latest poll, 57 percent say they support the ICC prosecution, down from the 68 percent who said they supported the ICC action in a South Consulting poll published in October last year. Those who are opposed to the ICC prosecution of the Kenya cases rose to 40 percent in the latest poll, up from 30 percent in October last year.
The election of Kenyatta and his deputy, Ruto, is clearly another factor in the drop in support for the ICC. This may be explained by the fact that never in Kenya’s history has a head of state been charged with a crime in office nor has he been prosecuted in a case that started before he ascended to office. For the country, the ICC cases present a psychological barrier: is it possible for a head of state to face trial? This, however, was not the subject of neither the Ipsos Synovate poll or that of South Consulting.
The Ipsos Synovate poll is based on face-to-face interviews with 2,000 people between June 23 and 30. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percent. The South Consulting poll is based on face-to-face interviews with 2,629 people during the first week of June. Its margin of error is plus or minus 2 percent.
The Ipsos Synovate poll is available here.
Previous South Consulting polls are available here.