A new opinion poll has shown that support has risen over the past four months for the International Criminal Court (ICC) trials against Kenya’s president, deputy president, and a former radio journalist.
This rise in public support for the cases at the ICC has been recorded at a time the Kenyan government has been lobbying hard to try and secure the suspension of the cases against President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and Deputy President William Samoei Ruto. Thursday’s poll also found that an overwhelming number of Kenyans want Kenyatta to attend his trial, now that the court has allowed him to be absent from parts of it.
An Ipsos Synovate poll released Thursday has shown that support for the ICC cases has gone up to 51 percent, compared to 39 percent in the firm’s July poll. Part of the increased support is conditional. Ipsos Synovate found that 42 percent of the people polled support the ICC process, without any condition. This represents a three-percentage point increase from those who gave the ICC process unconditional backing in the July poll. An additional nine percent, however, also support the ICC process so long as Kenyatta and Ruto are not required to be continually present in court during their trials.
By the time of the July poll, Trial Chamber V(a) had made a majority decision to allow Ruto to skip a significant part of his trial, but the issue of the continuous presence of any of the accused during their trials had not gained much public attention. Since that poll, though, the issue of whether Kenyatta and Ruto should attend all their trial sessions has moved from being a purely legal argument made in court to become the subject of diplomatic and political discussions in Kenya, at the African Union (AU), and the United Nations Security Council. Last month, the AU passed a strongly worded resolution calling on the Security Council to grant a deferral of the cases against the Kenyan presidency. That AU resolution was followed by high-level lobbying by a group of African foreign affairs ministers at the Security Council. However, this effort was thwarted today when the deferral request was officially rejected by the Council.
Thirty percent of the respondents told Ipsos Synovate that the ICC cases should be terminated, compared to 29 percent in July. Another 13 percent said the cases should be tried in Kenya, which is a 22 percentage point drop from July. In the July poll, 32 percent of the respondents told Ipsos Synovate that they wanted the cases tried in by a tribunal in Kenya.
Of those who support the ICC process, 40 percent said they did so because it is the best way for the victims of the post-election violence getting justice. Another 24 percent said they do not trust Kenyan court,s and another 23 percent said the ICC process will end impunity. The remainder supported the ICC process because they believe it will prevent future violence, among other reasons.
On whether Kenyatta should attend his trial, 67 percent of the respondents told Ipsos Synovate they want him to be present because the court has allowed him to be excused from part of his trial hearings. Twenty-five percent said that they want Kenyatta to stay away from his trial irrespective of the court’s decisions.
Kenyatta is scheduled to go on trial in February next year. He faces five counts of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the violence that rocked Kenya after the December 2007 presidential election. Ruto’s trial opened in September. He and his co-accused Joshua arap Sang each face three counts of crimes against humanity for their alleged role in the December 2007-February 2008 violence, commonly referred to as post-election violence.
Thursday’s poll has a margin of error of 2.2 percent. It is based on face-to-face interviews of 2,060 people across Kenya conducted between November 1 and November 9. Ipsos self-funded the poll.