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Justice

Case against Kenyan presidential candidates dropped

In a surprise turn of events, a petition challenging the suitability of two candidates for the Kenyan presidency has been withdrawn.

A high court in the Kenyan capital Nairobi has ruled that two prominent politicians who face charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague can contest next year's presidential election.The ruling followed the withdrawal of a petition filed by civil society groups which had sought to challenge the candidates' eligibility.

The two are Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya's founding father Jomo Kenyatta and former Education Minister William Ruto.

Vice-President Musyoka is also targeted by the civil society groups
(AP Photo/Khalil Senosi, File)

Civil society campaigners also have Vice-President Musyoka in their sights

Together with two other Kenyans, top civil servant Francis Muthaura and radio presenter Joshua Sang, they are expected to be tried at the ICC next year on charges of masterminding the 2007/8 post-election violence that resulted in the death of 1,300 people and the displacement of more than 600,000.

Mixed response

Among the many people watching events unfold in the courtroom was veteran lawyer John Khaminwa. He was happy with the ruling since he believes that determining the integrity of presidential or parliamentary aspirants should be a matter for voters to decide, not the courts.

Businessman Jackson Njuguna Karanja said the 2013 presidential election would not have been fair had Kenyatta and Ruto been legally prevented from standing as candidates. "As a Kenyan, I would like all of the candidates to be given fair play," he told DW.

Kennedy Wilson, a young Nairobi-based lawyer, was not happy with the civil society groups' decision to withdraw their petition against the presidential aspirants.

"The most frustrating thing is the fact that a party has the right to withdraw a petition they make before the court. It is  frustrating with regards to the petitioners having taken this long. It's a matter of public interest," he said.

Fresh petition planned

Ambrose Weda, one of the lawyers representing the civil society groups said the petition would be refiled. "This is a tactical withdrawal," he said. "We promise Kenyans a better, bigger and well prepared case."

He said the main reason for the withdrawal of the petition was that the civil society groups wanted the integrity of all five presidential to be scrutinized.

Kenyan villagers ride motorcycles and wave branches in celebration (Photo:Ben Curtis/AP/dapd)

Kenyans hope the March elections will be fair and free of violence

  "We shall rebuild and come back fully built with all the five as respondents," The other three are Vice-President Kalomzo Musyoka, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi.

The campaigners said they will file "the mother of all petitions" that will encompass all politicians eyeing the presidency and that this would  address the issue of integrity once and for all.

Was pressure exerted?

Justices Isaac Lenaola, Mohammed Warsame and Lady Justice Philomena Mwilu ruled that it was within the group's rights to bring another case before the court.

There had been speculation that the group withdrew their petition as a result of pressure.  Lawyer Ambrose Weda denied this, but in an interview with DW's "Africalink", political analyst Martin Oloo said he believed that they been under intense pressure and that "with the passage of time, we'll get to know the details."

The withdrawal of the initial petition came just a few days after the surprise news that Kenyatta and Ruto plan to contest the election on a joint ticket. This is expected to be officially confirmed at a rally in the town of Nakuru at the weekend.

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