Kenya’s former higher education minister said he was confident the International Criminal Court would drop charges against him as a suspect in post-election violence at hearings next week, but vowed to run for president even if they were confirmed.
William Ruto, whom Prime Minister Raila Odinga dismissed from his post last week, is one of six suspected architects of ethnic fighting in early 2008 that killed some 1,300 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague is due to hold two confirmation hearings in September to determine whether the six political and business figures, including Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, should stand trial, Reuters reports.
The first hearing on Thursday will look into confirming charges against Ruto, Henry Kosgey, the former trade and industralisation minister and radio presenter Joshua Arap Sang.
“No, I am not worried at all. We have prepared our defence to face that concoction of lies and falsehoods. The charges will be dropped,” Ruto was quoted as saying in the Sunday Nation when asked if he was worried the hearings would hurt his presidential campaign.
“And even in the unlikely event that they are confirmed, the legal position we have is that it will not stop us from vying for the presidency because we shall remain innocent Kenyans until proven otherwise.”
ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in December named three government ministers, the cabinet secretary and a former police chief as key suspects behind the violence that shook Kenya after the December 2007 election.
There are fears of angry reactions along tribal lines and even new fighting should the ICC find the key suspects guilty of crimes against humanity.
“If there was an iota of truth in the charges, how come two of the three frontrunners in next year’s elections, Uhuru and myself are being taken to The Hague? If Kenyans think we are criminals, how come they have indicated they are willing to vote for us?” Ruto said.
Analysts say Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s camp is keen to have the ICC trials proceed so that his rivals — including Ruto with whom he has fallen out dramatically — are excluded from running in the 2012 election.
Opinion polls show Odinga — who accused President Mwai Kibaki of stealing his victory in the 2007 election — as the frontrunner to replace Kibaki. But they also show his rivals’ combined support could unsettle him, as he faces growing rifts within his Orange Democratic Party.