Five judges of the Kenya High Court have cleared presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, to contest in the March 4 general elections.
The Court ruled on Friday that it has no jurisdiction to determine whether or not Kenyatta and Ruto, can vie for the top office.
The two face crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their alleged role in the 2007/2008 post-election violence in which at least 1,300 people died and more than 600,000 others were displaced.
A five judge bench says that only the Supreme Court has exclusive rights and jurisdiction to determine any matter arising from pre-election and post-election matters on the presidential race. They observed that any question relating to the qualification or disqualification of a candidate can be determined by Supreme Court. The five judges are Mbogholi Msagha, Luka Kimaru, Hellen Omondi, Pauline Nyamweya and George Kimondo.
They each took turn to read the judgment saying the ICC cases hanging over Kenyatta and Ruto do not have any effect on the presidential race in Kenya. They observed that an individual is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law. The judges ruled that the ICC and Kenyan court cannot adjudicate on the same matter. Only the ICC can bar them but is also restricted because there are no such provisions on the Rome statute that established the ICC. The judges noted that the confirmation may have formed the basis of trial but the convictions have not yet been made.
The judges also dismissed an application to have an envelope by Justice Phillip Waki handed to Koffi Annan and later to the International Criminal Court be handed to the court. They noted that the matter had been overtaken by events.
The ruling now means that Kenyatta and Ruto are now free to vie for a public office in Kenya unless the Supreme Court bars them.
The suit had been filed by four Non-Governmental Organisations; Centre for Policy and Conflict, Kenya Human Rights Commission, International Commission of Jurists of Kenya and Public Corruption, Ethics and Governance Watch. They were seeking a declaration that the duo’s candidature is contrary to Chapter Six of the Kenya Constitution since they are facing charges of crimes against humanity at the ICC. Chapter six touches on integrity and code of conduct by individuals running for public office in Kenya.
The petitioners also argued that it would be a recipe for anarchy if individuals facing trial at the ICC are allowed to hold public office. They reasoned that dealing with state affairs and answering summons at the ICC would pose a challenge on efficiency.
ICPC and KNHRC promise to file a fresh petition before court but with only 17 days left to the March 4 elections, it will be difficult for the matter to be heard before then.