THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The International Criminal Court's prosecutor named six Kenyan leaders Wednesday as the alleged orchestrators of violence after the country's 2007 election that left more than 1,000 people dead.
Luis Moreno Ocampo wants judges to charge six Kenyan leaders, among them the son of the country's founding father, with crimes against humanity including murder, rape, and torture. The violence had sparked over who would take the presidency and then took on ethnic overtones. But it is the case against former higher-education minister William Ruto that could cause the most violent backlash in Kenya.
Kenya's police commissioner, Mathew K. Iteere, warned that "criminal elements" were looking to use Moreno Ocampo's announcement as an opportunity to break the law. Iteere vowed to crack down on any violence.
Moreno Ocampo alleged that Ruto began plotting attacks on supporters of President Mwai Kibaki a year before the election and worked together with Minister for Industrialization Henry Kosgey and radio broadcaster Joshua Sang to coordinate a campaign of killing and forced deportations in the Rift Valley.
In a separate case, Moreno Ocampo charged Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta - son of Jomo Kenyatta, the Kenyan independence hero and founding president - alongside cabinet secretary Francis Muthaura and a former police commissioner, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Hussein Ali, with murder, deportation, persecution, rape, and inhumane acts allegedly committed in retaliation against supporters of Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Moreno Ocampo asked judges at the Hague to confirm the charges and order the six suspects to turn themselves in to the war-crimes tribunal. The judges will study the evidence and likely make their decision early next year.
Deadly clashes erupted after Kenya's disputed 2007 presidential election, including indiscriminate bow-and-arrow, machete, and gunfire attacks that killed more than 1,000 people.
Ethnic tensions in Kenya have simmered for decades, with much of the violence traced back to the desire for land. After independence in 1963, Jomo Kenyatta sent masses of his own Kikuyu group to occupy land in western Kenya native to the Kalenjin tribe.
The newcomers prospered, growing into the most powerful of Kenya's 42 ethnic groups, running businesses and politics. But favoritism to Kikuyus fueled resentments.
Kikuyus in the Rift Valley were targeted in ethnic clashes in 1992 and 1997 elections, when then-President Daniel arap Moi sponsored gangs from his Kalenjin tribe to intimidate his opponents. Three of the six suspects named Wednesday come from the Kalenjin tribe, the group that Ruto leads.
The Kalenjins dominate the Rift Valley, and reaction to the charges there will be key to Kenya's peace in coming days.
President Kibaki said Wednesday that the government had intensified security around the country to protect lives and property. He said the government was committed to establishing a local tribunal to deal with postelection violence. "As a nation we must also focus on the need for national healing and reconciliation," he said.
The 2007 violence erupted along tribal lines after Kibaki, a Kikuyu, won a vote that opponents said was rigged. A bloodbath was stopped only after former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan mediated a peace agreement that created a coalition government.