Kenyatta Inauguration to go Ahead

ICC charges: Uhuru Kenyatta, left, and Omar al-Bashir. Photo: AP

Diplomats to attend swearing-in ceremony of Kenya’s fourth president amid claims he was behind deaths of 1,000 people.

Diplomats in Nairobi face the awkward prospect of a date with a man who has been indicted by the international criminal court for crimes against humanity.

Uhuru Kenyatta, who will be sworn in as the fourth president of Kenya at his inauguration on Tuesday, is accused of orchestrating the violence that killed more than 1,000 people after Kenya’s last election and is the first international criminal court (ICC) indictee to be elected as head of state. If he abides by the summons and the charges stand, he will be the first president to stand trial at The Hague.

A spokesperson for the British high commission in Nairobi confirmed the high commissioner, Christian Turner, would be attending the ceremony. Contrary to Sudanese media reports, Sudan‘s president, Omar al-Bashir, who faces an arrest warrant from the ICC, will not attend, a Kenyan official said on Monday.

Diplomats from Europe and the US will be entertained by rappers and gospel singers among others during the two-hour event. The Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, will speak on behalf of the guests.

There has been a softening in diplomatic attitudes towards the Kenyatta government, said Hadley Muchela, programmes manager at IMLU, a Kenyan human rights organisation. Before the election, the US and Europe warned of serious consequences if Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president, was elected. Britain warned it would maintain only essential contact.

Muchela said the west had eased its stance on the regime to protect its interests. “Is there honesty in these dealings, or is it always just about our interests in other countries in the world?” he said. “It’s left the country a bit confused.”

The 4 March election was marred by accusations of inaccuracy and fraud. Kenyatta’s opponent, Raila Odinga, filed a petition to the high court to contest the tally. But on 30 March, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga announced the decision to uphold the results.

On the same day, David Cameron wrote a congratulatory letter to Kenyatta. “[The prime minister] stressed that this represented the end of a remarkable process, in which more Kenyans than ever before turned out to vote,” Downing Street said.

The process was remarkable in more ways than one: while massive numbers of voters turned out to vote, in more than 20 polling stations the number of votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters.

Patrick Orr, chairman of the Kenya Society in the UK, remembers a former British governor describing Kenyatta’s father, Jomo, as “a leader of darkness and death”. But Orr says Jomo turned out to be “a pretty good leader for his time”. He predicts a similar situation, and is hopeful about Kenyatta. “He’s an extremely bright guy, I think he’s got the makings of a superb president,” Orr said.

Britain has £4bn of investments in Kenya, Orr pointed out, and, with recent hydrocarbon discoveries, he said it was unlikely that relations would cool.

Source: The Guardian