Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday took the stand at the International Criminal Court to defend himself against allegations of crimes against humanity.
In a dramatic confrontation with his accuser, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Mr Kenyatta denied any links with the outlawed Mungiki sect. (READ: Ocampo claims Uhuru-Mungiki link)
Mr Kenyatta blamed Prime Minister Raila Odinga for the violence which swept the nation following the last elections, saying he bore ultimate “political responsibility” for failing to stop it.
Mr Kenyatta said Mr Odinga failed to rein in his supporters who were aggrieved by the results announced by the electoral commission.
“I will not say that he is criminally responsible because I have no evidence,” said Mr Kenyatta in response to a question by Mr Moreno-Ocampo.
“He had political responsibility. If he did not hold press conferences using strong language in that period, if he followed due process and went to court and lastly had he used his political voice to tell supporters to stop the violence, the level of violence would not have been what it was.”
Mr Kenyatta said he could not link the rest of the leadership of ODM with the violence. “He who bears responsibility is the leader. The leader was Raila Odinga. He was the flag-bearer.”
Mr Kenyatta’s statement came at the end of a day in which he sought to cast himself as a nationalist and statesman who could not have incited the violence in which dozens of Kenyans lost their lives in Naivasha and Nakuru. (READ: Uhuru and Muthaura ‘organised attacks’)
Dressed in a dark suit, light blue shirt and striped purple tie to match, Mr Kenyatta spent six hours offering evidence to judges in a tense Courtroom Number One in The Hague.
Mr Kenyatta drew on his political career, his multi-ethnic group of allies and the varied positions he has taken on national issues to paint a profile of what he hoped the judges would conclude was a civilised and urbane politician rather than a war criminal.
“My politics at the time (in 2002), and it still is today, is that we need a united Kenya. All communities need to feel that they are accommodated and that they are part and parcel of the society.”
Mr Kenyatta cited key moments in his political career when he said he went against the grain of expectations in his native central Kenya.
He said that his decision to contest the presidency against fellow Kikuyu candidate Mwai Kibaki in 2002, his swift concession of defeat after that election and his campaign for the “No” side during the 2005 referendum demonstrated his nationalist credentials.
“(When I ran for presidency in 2002) there was a strong feeling that maybe I was out to divide the Kikuyu vote.
“There was a mood developing that there was need to replace Kanu because President Moi had been in power for 24 years.
“Many felt that Moi was using me to continue his rule. Many felt that I was, as they called it at the time, a ‘project’ of the former president.”
Mr Kenyatta denied financing atrocities committed by the Mungiki, saying he could not be a commander of the gang because he had never been a member of the sect. (READ: Uhuru Kenyatta's private army)
He said that he only attended fund-raisers to help internally displaced people.
His mention of Mr Odinga, continued a theme initially explored by his lawyer Steven Kay that ODM leaders incited the violence.
Thursday’s sessions were the most eagerly anticipated portion of the hearings which will determine whether Mr Kenyatta, Civil Service head Francis Muthaura and Postmaster-General Hussein Ali should be committed to trial for the violence in which hundreds of civilians were killed in Naivasha and Nakuru at the end of January 2008.
The public gallery was filled to capacity with observers, including Mr Kenyatta’s wife Margaret, and senior members of the wider Kenyatta family — Cabinet minister Beth Mugo and former Kenya Airports Authority chief George Muhoho — present. (SEE IN PICTURES: Uhuru, Muthaura, Ali at the ICC)
Journalists from Dutch media outlets and major international news agencies also attended the hearings having stayed away since the first day of the hearings.
Inside the courtroom there was a palpable sense of tension with Mr Kenyatta, at a light brown table in the middle of the court, as the focus of attention.
For the first time since the opening statements were issued, Mr Moreno-Ocampo attended the hearings and put questions to the minister.
Mr Kenyatta’s defence team tried to cast the evidence Mr Moreno-Ocampo’s side was relying on as the product of witnesses who were unreliable.
The minister gave accounts of his movements on several key dates when he is said to have attended planning meetings to plot the violence.
He said that December 30, 2007, when he is said to have held court with the Mungiki in State House, was spent at Kenyatta International Conference Centre where he was observing the tallying of the presidential vote. (READ: State House and city club linked to chaos)
Mr Kenyatta said he went to State House later that day to attend the swearing-in ceremony before heading home to sleep.
He said he attended a meeting of PNU parliamentary candidates on November 26, 2007, when he is said to have attended another meeting with the Mungiki in State House.
The Finance minister said that allegations that he attended a meeting with Mungiki members at a ground floor restaurant in Yaya Centre were equally untrue.
“The Yaya Centre is not really a meeting place. It is a place where my wife does shopping and I have gone there occasionally with her and our children.”