In Kenya, Charges of High-Level Conspiracies

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Uriel Sinai / Getty

A Kenyan man demonstrates in the Kibera slums on Jan. 17, 2008, in Nairobi

A Kenyan human-rights group alleged on July 17 that a dozen parliamentarians and seven ministers were involved in inciting, financing and participating in violence last year following Kenya's disputed December 2007 election. The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights listed 219 people and organizations as suspects in crimes against humanity after political violence killed nearly 1,300 and displaced more than a quarter of a million. "We got our information from Kenyans," says Florence Simbiri-Jaoko, the chairperson of the government-run body. "We have made recommendation for further investigations. Once these further investigations are carried out, through whichever mechanism is agreed, if there is sufficient information to warrant their prosecution, then we will expect everyone to be prosecuted and tried."

The 238-page report, entitled On the Brink of the Precipice, blames the state for failing to protect its citizens. "The government of Kenya is responsible for failing to intervene in the prevention of conditions that led to insecurity and lack of safety that in turn forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes," the report read. "The responsibility for the massive eviction first goes to the state for failing to take steps to prevent their occurrence and, when forceful eviction started, for failing to take urgent steps to prevent its escalation."

The human-rights commission said it wanted to display high-profile suspects now instead of waiting for an International Criminal Court (ICC) intervention. The report comes a week after former United Nations chief Kofi Annan handed over an undisclosed document to the prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Said the report: "The prosecutor of the ICC should open investigations on Kenya to determine who bears the greatest responsibility in the commission of crimes against humanity detailed in this report."

Lawmakers and ministers from the two main parties in the coalition government are cited in the report for allegedly organizing meetings to gather gang militias who then evicted rival communities. Among those named are Kenya's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, a member of the Party of National Unity, and William Ruto, Agriculture Minister and an influential lawmaker from the Orange Democratic Movement. Kenyatta has not commented on the specific allegations. Ruto accused Western powers such as the U.S and the E.U. of interfering in Kenya, and said the nation had been subjected to constant intimidation. "Kenyans have solutions for their problems" he told his constituency on July 18.

The report said Kenyatta, son of the first President of Kenya, met with other MPs from his party to plan retaliatory violence by ethnic Kikuyus, the tribe to which Kenyatta belongs. "They also contributed funds and organized militia for retaliatory violence," the report stated.

Ruto, the report said, incited, financed and planned violence through hate speech and it quoted him saying that his tribe, the Kalenjin, would uproot outsiders and burn them. The report said: "Politicians who during the election campaign period preached messages of ethnic hatred particularly aimed at the forceful eviction ... are responsible for setting up a context that facilitated these forceful evictions."