Why are Kenyan leaders at The Hague?

Uhuru Kenyatta (l), William Ruto (r) - on the campaign trail March 2013 Uhuru Kenyatta (L) and William Ruto were on opposite sides at the time of the 2007 election

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Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta is the first sitting head of state to appear at the International Criminal Court (ICC). His trial has yet to start, but he has been summoned to appear at The Hague as prosecutors allege that the Kenyan government is refusing to hand over vital evidence.

He was not head of state when charges of conspiring in 2007 to incite post-poll violence were confirmed by the ICC in January 2012. His deputy William Ruto - who was a political rival in 2007 - is on trial on similar charges, which they both deny.

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What was the violence about?
A Kenyan man sits in the cab of a destroyed truck used as a makeshift roadblock while a tyre burns on the roof, as he and others enforce the roadblock, during post-election violence in Kisumu, Kenya - Tuesday 29 January 2008

Kenya exploded into ethnic violence after then-President Mwai Kibaki - an ally of Uhuru Kenyatta - was hurriedly inaugurated at night for a second and final term in office, despite claims by opposition candidate Raila Odinga - an ally of William Ruto - that the result had been rigged.

The violence was the worst to hit Kenya since independence from British rule in 1963, threatening the stability of East Africa's biggest economy and the main regional ally of Western powers, especially the US and UK.

It saw neighbours turn on each other as lingering ethnic tensions burst into the open. People were dragged out of their homes and hacked and burnt to death in images that shocked the world.

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Why did a political dispute turn into an ethnic conflict?
IDP camp in Nairobi's Mathare slum, February 2008

Mr Kibaki comes from Kenya's biggest ethnic group, the Kikuyu. They are resented by other communities who accuse them of expanding their grip on land and power since independence.

So after Mr Kibaki was sworn in, members of other ethnic groups, especially the Kalenjin, took revenge on Kikuyus, killing them or forcing them to leave areas the Kalenjin saw as theirs.

This led to tit-for-tat violence which lasted for several weeks, killing more than 1,200 people and forcing 600,000 to flee their homes.

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How did Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto become implicated?
A woman rests near her shack in the Kibera slums painted with a peace statement on 10 February 2008 in Nairobi, Kenya

Mr Kenyatta is a Kikuyu who threw his weight behind Mr Kibaki while Mr Ruto is a Kalenjin who backed Mr Odinga, a Luo, in the 2007 election.

Mr Kenyatta is alleged to have developed a plan to take revenge for attacks on Kikuyus and keep Mr Kibaki in power. He is also accused of being the focal point between the government and the Kikuyu Mungiki sect, which was sent to the Rift Valley, setting up roadblocks and going house to house, killing some 150 suspected Odinga supporters.

Mr Ruto, whose trial began last year, is accused of planning even before the election to set up militias to attack Kikuyus and is alleged to have urged his supporters to uproot the weeds from the fields - referring to communities in the Rift Valley with origins elsewhere in the country.

Both men strongly deny the charges.

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How did the conflict end?
 A child's shoe lies on the ground next to a burnt house in Komoyo on 6 January 2008 near Eldoret, Kenya

Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga signed a power-sharing deal in April 2008 after mediation by ex-UN chief Kofi Annan.

It saw Mr Kibaki retaining the presidency, while Mr Odinga was appointed prime minister - a post he held until his defeat at the hands of Mr Kenyatta in elections in March last year.

The deal also said that if Kenya failed to try those accused of greatest responsibility for the violence, they should face justice at the ICC.

Despite being in opposite camps in the 2007 election, Mr Kenyatta chose Mr Ruto as his running mate in the 2013 poll.

They said their alliance was an example of reconciliation but their critics said it was a cynical attempt to avoid justice.

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So why has the ICC tried to pursue the cases?
Patrons eat at a restaurant in Nairobi on 5 September 2013 as local television station broadcasts live proceedings of a parliament discussion on pulling out of the International Criminal Court (ICC)

They are seen as tests of the ICC's ability to force political leaders to face justice - the very reason it was set up.

The ICC launched an investigation after Mr Annan presented it with a sealed dossier of suspects involved in the violence. He acted after the Kibaki-led government failed to establish a special tribunal to try the perpetrators of violence.

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto have portrayed their cases as foreign interference in Kenya's affairs, helping them to whip up nationalist sentiment as they campaigned for elections last year.

The African Union has agreed with this stance, demanding last October that Mr Kenyatta's trial be deferred

However some Kenyans, in particular opposition supporters of Mr Odinga, back the ICC prosecutions.

MPs from his party boycotted a vote in parliament last year on leaving the ICC - a move which does not affect the existing prosecutions, and which in any case did not occur.

What is the ICC and how does it work?

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Election violence timeline:
  • Then-President Mwai Kibaki declared the winner of December 2007 elections - Raila Odinga cries foul
  • Opposition protests lead to clashes with police and degenerate into ethnic violence across the country
  • Some 1,200 killed and 600,000 flee homes
  • Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta in Kibaki camp; accused of orchestrating violence against ethnic groups seen as pro-Odinga
  • Incumbent Deputy President William Ruto in Odinga camp; accused of targeting pro-Kibaki communities
  • Power-sharing deal signed in April 2008 after mediation by ex-UN chief Kofi Annan
  • Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto form alliance and win March 2013 election
  • Mr Ruto's trial began in September 2013
  • Mr Kenyatta's trial hit by delays and in September 2014 was adjourned indefinitely because of lack of evidence
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