All six Kenyans who were summoned to the International Criminal Court to face charges for crimes against humanity said Wednesday they will cooperate with the court, while analysts dismissed government claims that the trials could trigger more violence.
Kenya's government appeared to escalate efforts to see that the cases do not proceed. A statement from three government ministers, including the attorney general, said the government will challenge the admissibility of the cases and the jurisdiction of the ICC. Kenya is also lobbying the U.N. to delay the trials.
Among those saying they would appear before the court are Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta _ the son of Kenya's founding president _ and former higher education minister William Ruto.
Former Minister of Industrialization Henry Kiprono Kosgey, former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali, secretary to the Cabinet Francis Muthaura, and broadcaster Joshua Sang also agreed to cooperate.
Kenyatta, who is a leading contender in next year's presidential race, said the court appearance will give him a chance to argue his innocence. He said he would cooperate with the ICC "unwaveringly."
ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo named the six suspects in December. He alleged that Ruto began plotting attacks on supporters of President Mwai Kibaki a year before the December 2007 election and worked together with Kosgey and Sang to coordinate a campaign of killing and forced deportations in western Kenya's Rift Valley.
Moreno-Ocampo charged Kenyatta, Muthaura and Ali in a separate case. They are suspected of murder, deportation, persecution, rape and inhumane acts committed in retaliation against supporters of Raila Odinga, the current prime minister.
Kenya saw violence after its 1992 and 1997 elections, for which no one was ever punished. Hassan Omar Hassan of the government-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said the ICC indictments for the 2007-08 violence are a big blow to impunity.
"It is telling individuals that they shall not be spared the full wrath of the law should they accord themselves of any discretion to mete violence on others," Hassan said. "The reason why violence in Kenya was usually widespread and almost an option of first resort was because of the impunity that existed."
Kenya was plunged into violence shortly after Kibaki was declared winner of the December 2007 vote that supporters of opponent Odinga said was rigged.
More than 600,000 people were forced from their homes and more than 1,000 people were killed in brutal attacks that shattered Kenya's reputation as a haven of stability in a region roiled by war.
The postelection clashes erupted along tribal lines and were only stopped after former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan mediated a peace agreement that created a coalition government in which Odinga was appointed prime minister.
Kibaki's wing of Kenya's coalition government is trying to lobby the U.N. security council to defer cases of the six Kenyans. Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka met with the president of the U.N. security council Monday and said the ICC trials could cause friction just as Kenya is working through a national healing and reconciliation.
Kibaki's group says Kenya can prosecute the perpetrators of the violence locally, because of a reformed judiciary and a new constitution that was passed in August. At its last summit in January, the African Union supported the move to have the cases deferred.
However political analysts and local groups said those supporting the deferrals are attempting to subvert justice by trying to get the trial into Kenyan courts that they can control.
Godfrey Musila, a senior lecturer of law at Kenyatta University, said he doubts the ICC trial will spark violence in Kenya. He noted that polls have shown that the majority of Kenyans support the Hague process. Musila said the trials will deter violence in the next election.
"Already you can see change of behavior among the political actors even though they do not verbalize it in public," he said. "They think quietly that, 'We cannot do this thing again, because there is a court which can act.'"