Maintenance. We are currently updating the site. Please check back shortly
Members login
  • TrustLaw
  • Members Portal
Subscribe Donate

Kenya's Odinga taunts election rival over war crimes court

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 11 Feb 2013 22:47 GMT
Author: Reuters
hum-war
Tweet Recommend Google + LinkedIn Email Print
Leave us a comment

* Kenyatta facing charges over 2007 violence

* Exchange gives foretaste of highly-charged election

* First TV debate produces no clear winner

By James Macharia

NAIROBI, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Raila Odinga, the frontrunner in Kenya's presidential election, taunted his rival Uhuru Kenyatta in a debate on Monday, asking how he would be able to rule from the Hague, where Kenyatta goes on trial shortly on charges of crimes against humanity.

The presidential debate - the first ever held in the country - failed to produce a clear winner, but gave a foretaste of what is expected to be a highly-charged contest to run East Africa's economic powerhouse.

Former finance minister Kenyatta has been summoned to appear at the International Criminal Court (ICC) it The Hague a month after the March election to face charges he helped direct ethnic clashes that erupted after a disputed 2007 vote.

"It will pose serious challenges to run a government by (the internet phone service) Skype from the Hague. It is not practical," said Kenya's current prime minister Odinga who has a narrow lead over Kenyatta according to polls.

During the debate between all eight presidential candidates, Kenyatta played down the fact that, if he wins, his first presidential trip may be to appear in the dock.

"If Kenyans choose to elect me, it means they have confidence in my ability to address the ICC issue and lead the country. I will be able to clear my name at ICC and at the same time implement my manifesto," Kenyatta told the moderator.

The March 4 poll will be the first under a new constitution and the first since the 2007 violence that killed more than 1,200 people.

All sides have promised there will not be a repeat of the ethnic tensions that fuelled the violence and the candidates on Monday denied their support was based on tribal allegiance.

"NO CLEAR LOSER"

"I don't think there was any clear loser," said Kenyan politician Abdikadir Mohamed, an analyst at the event.

Kenyatta's running mate, William Ruto, is also facing charges at the ICC for his alleged role in directing the 2007 violence. Both deny wrongdoing.

Kenya's High Court will rule on Friday in a case in which rights groups have filed a suit challenging Kenyatta and Ruto's suitability for elected office, given their charges at the ICC.

Lawyer Paul Muite, one of the lower-ranked candidates by most polls, said President Mwai Kibaki and Odinga, the two rivals in the 2007 poll, should also face charges at the ICC.

Martha Karua, the only female candidate, accused politicians of leading "poor" Kenyans to fight in the last vote.

"Politicians do not fight, they shake hands and laugh, as you have seen us doing here. They should not be allowed to call on Kenyans to rise against each other," said the lawyer and former cabinet minister.

The debate was widely followed on Twitter, with the hashtag ${esc.hash}KEDebate13.

"I think if anything it made my decision clearer. It gave me a chance to confirm about what I believed about the candidates," said Angela Kamuyu, a university student.

Interest in the debate flagged badly as candidates resorted to well-worn rhetoric on how they would tackle insecurity, government corruption, a tattered health system and education.

"First part of debate interesting, dealt with real issues. Second part downright boring. Overall: debate did not take us forward or backwards," political scientist Mutahi Ngunyi said on the online messaging service.

A second and final debate will be held on Feb. 25, focusing on the economy, land, devolution and foreign policy. (Additional reporting by Njuwa Maina; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of the Thomson Reuters Foundation. For more information see our Acceptable Use Policy.

comments powered by Disqus
Most Popular
TOPICAL CONTENT
Topical content
LATEST SLIDESHOW

Latest slideshow

See allSee all
FEATURED JOBS
Featured jobs