Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta told the International Criminal Court (ICC) he never commanded the criminal gang that the court’s prosecutor alleges killed people in Kenya’s Central Rift region during the country’s post-election violence.
Kenyatta also denied that he had any links with the criminal gang, called Mungiki, during his sworn testimony on the eighth day of pre-trial hearings. The prosecution is seeking to confirm charges against Kenyatta and two other suspects in this case. Kenyatta, who is also Kenya’s Finance Minister, took the unusual step of testifying at his own confirmation of charges hearing whereas other suspects in the two Kenya cases before the ICC have chosen to either speak through their lawyers or make unsworn statements as provided in the court’s rules.
ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo wants Kenyatta, Head of Public and Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kirimi Muthaura, and former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali charged with five counts of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles during the violence that followed the disputed December 2007 presidential election. More than 1,000 people were killed between December 2007 and February 2008. Ocampo alleges Kenyatta commanded Mungiki to carry out the attacks in Nakuru and Naivasha towns because he has been associated with the gang since 2000. The prosecutor also claims that Kenyatta financed and helped raise funds to buy weapons and pay Mungiki.
“To be a commander or anything in Mungiki, first of all I would have to be a member, and I have never been a member of Mungiki,” Kenyatta told the court when his defense lawyer, Stephen Kay, led him in his evidence. “I have never mobilized or tasked Mungiki for any activity whatsoever.”
Kenyatta denied being at meetings with Mungiki leaders or members that prosecution allege he held on various dates at several venues in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, including the president’s official residence, State House.
“I did not attend any meeting with Mungiki or anybody else at State House on that day that is being referred to [November 26, 2007] or on any other date,” Kenyatta said.
Kenyatta informed the court he plans to sue a Kenyan political scientist who wrote an academic paper linking him with Mungiki. This was in response to a question Presiding Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova asked, wondering whether he had sued Peter Kagwanja for linking him to Mungiki which he was denying.
“I was only aware of that particular document when it was part of the disclosures,” Kenyatta explained.
Kenyatta also denied meeting Muthaura outside official functions, such as on Kenya’s Independence Day, December 12, 2007 or during Cabinet meetings. Prosecution witnesses have alleged Kenyatta and Muthaura attended a meeting at a private member’s club where plans to carry out the attacks in Nakuru and Naivasha were discussed.
Another major allegation that Kenyatta denied was having distributed about 100 million Kenyan shillings in cash at one meeting on December 30, 2007 at State House to prepare for the attacks.
“Anybody who knows the Kenyan currency would know that is quite a number of suitcases,” Kenyatta said, adding it would have been difficult for him to carry them around.
For the first time in the Kenya hearings, chief prosecutor Ocampo led the cross-examination. He asked Kenyatta whether he thought the then opposition leader Raila Odinga, now Prime Minister, had political or criminal responsibility for the violence because his defense placed Odinga at the center of the bloodshed.
“I will not say that he was criminally responsible because I have no evidence of him supplying arms,” Kenyatta said. “I am claiming had he agreed to follow proper due process and go to court instead of calling for mass action, violence would not have broken out.”
Morris Anyah, who is representing victims in this case, asked Kenyatta whether he was aware that the victims of the violence in Nakuru and Naivasha claim he was responsible for organizing it and they believed Mungiki carried out the attacks. Kenyatta denied he held a meeting at a Naivasha hotel to discuss the violence or that he had anything to do with the violence.
“As to who committed those acts of violence whether they were Mungiki or someone else I cannot say,” Kenyatta said.