THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Kenyan Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, appearing at The Hague on Thursday to try to avoid being tried for crimes against humanity, put the blame for violence that followed an election four years ago on his prime minister.
Denying charges that he himself urged fellow Kikuyu tribesmen to attack other groups, including followers of Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Kenyatta said it was Odinga’s refusal to accept defeat in the presidential election of December 2007 which led to the deaths of over 1,200 people.
The two men are part of a coalition government formed with international mediation following the bloodshed, but the cabinet remains bitterly divided since Odinga, from the Luo tribe, lost the presidential election to Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu.
“I will not say he was criminally responsible, because I have no evidence of him supplying arms,” said Kenyatta, who is a son of Kenya’s first president and a leading contender in next year’s election. “But he indeed had political responsibility.”
Kenyatta rejected charges that he helped organise violence and said he had always worked for national unity.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague should rule this year on whether he should stand trial on five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape. Five other Kenyan politicians and officials are also charged in the same case.
Kenyatta, who is also deputy prime minister, Cabinet Secretary Francis Kirimi Muthaura and former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali all appeared at the pre-trial hearings.
In his sworn testimony, Kenyatta denied allegations by prosecution witnesses that, on the night of December 30 when the election results were announced, he held a meeting with figures from the mainly Kikuyu Mungiki gang to plan violence.
“That event did not take place,” Kenyatta said. Exhausted by his work during the election, he added: “I went home to sleep.”
Under questioning by prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, he denied offering to pay Mungiki members for attacks.
“We were really just trying to calm the people,” Kenyatta said. “Little did I know that would mean myself being brought to the International Criminal Court.”
The defence has argued that two prosecution witnesses lied, possibly for profit.