Kenya’s president-elect Uhuru Kenyatta is set to be sworn in Tuesday, leaving Western nations in an awkward scenario of how to deal with a new president who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity.
Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, are due to go on trial at the ICC in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity relating to their role in the riots that broke out following the disputed presidential elections in December 2007. Both men deny the charges and have said they plan to clear their names.
More than 1,000 people died in the riots, the worst bout of violence since the nation gained independence from Britain in 1963. The government and opposition came to a power-sharing agreement in February 2008 and a cabinet was formed in April the same year.
However, after Kenya’s Supreme Court affirmed Kenyatta’s Mar.4 election victory, there appears to be the beginnings of a push for the ICC to drop the charges, the Associated Press news agency reported.
If charges against Kenyatta stand, Kenya would become the second country after Sudan to have a sitting president facing trial at the ICC.
The U.S. and the European governments said they would send ambassadors to attend Kenyatta's inauguration ceremony — a level of representation that is reportedly in line with their position of having only “essential contacts” with those indicted by the ICC, Reuters news agency reported.
A Kenyan government spokesman said the ceremony would not be attended by Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who is charged with genocide in The Hague and now faces an arrest warrant for not cooperating, the Reuters report stated.
Kenya, the largest economy in East Africa, is a major U.S. ally in the war against Islamist militants in the region and houses the largest U.S. embassy on the African continent. The U.S. also operates a small military base on the Kenyan coast, near the Somali border.
Western governments consider Kenya as crucial to regional stability and rely on the nation in the fight against Al-Qaeda-linked militants in neighboring Somalia, as well as the Somali pirates.
Kenyatta, who is the son of Kenya’s first President, Jomo Kenyatta, became one of the two deputy prime ministers in a coalition government formed after the 2007 elections.
Kenyatta is ranked by Forbes Magazine as the 23rd richest person in Africa with an estimated wealth of $500 million.
The Kenyatta family boasts of a significant media presence, owning TV channel K24, The People newspaper and a number of radio stations, according to the BBC.
The family’s business interests are also spread across Kenyan tourism, banking, construction, dairy and insurance sectors. The family owns huge tracts of land in the Rift Valley, central and coastal regions of Kenya, the BBC report said.