The news that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has dropped charges against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has prompted mixed reactions from the citizens of the country he leads.
The withdrawal of the ICC’s charges on Friday against Kenyatta for the ethnic violence following the country’s 2007 elections that left at least 1,200 dead means many in the vast Rift Valley, one of the hardest hit areas in the clashes, fear they will never see justice.
We now know that there is one justice for the rich and one for the poor in this country.
Battles there saw rivals fighting with machetes after communities, divided along tribal lines, turned on each other after the disputed elections.
No one within Kenya is being prosecuted for the deaths.
“It is a victory for the president, but a heartbreaking loss for the victims of the violence,” said 43-year old David Mongeri, a lawyer in Nakuru, some 150km north of the capital Nairobi.
“Justice was not served today,” Mongeri added.
“Naturally, it would have been unfair for the court to prolong the case without any evidence against Kenyatta. In that regard, withdrawal was the only option – but the prosecutor failed poor Kenyans.”
But elsewhere, others celebrated.
“We are shedding tears of joy after the charges against the president were dropped,” said Beatrice Nyokabi, forced from her home near the farming town of Navaisha, who believed Kenyatta had protected her during the violence, not caused it.
“We hope that one day the real perpetrators will be arrested,” she added.
Bitter memories from the 2007 blood spill are still fresh in the minds of Kenyans.
It had been the country’s worst violence since its independence in 1963, and Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were blamed at The Hague-based ICC.
Both denied the charges of committing crimes against humanity.
Some blamed the ICC’s former prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo and his successor Fatou Bensouda, for failing to properly gather evidence, while others alleged that witness intimidation contributed to the collapse of the case.
“When Bensouda first visited us, she promised to deliver us justice, but as the case unfolded, we saw it was a power play by the international community who wanted to dictate to Kenyans who should be their leader. That is when I withdrew my support from the ICC,” said Elizabeth Maina, 61, who fled her home from machete-wielding gangs.
“We blame Ocampo as he never interviewed the real people displaced by violence and the charges against Uhuru were framed,” said Peter Mwaura, who still lives in a camp set up after the violence for those forced from their homes.
Those who suffered during the weeks of bloodshed said they had resigned themselves to simply trying to forget the a dark chapter of their past.
“We now know that there is one justice for the rich and one for the poor in this country, and since there is nothing we can do, we have to move on,” said Irene Akoth, who’s brother was killed in the violence.
The 2007-8 violence shattered Kenya’s image as a beacon of stability in East Africa when opposition leader Raila Odinga accused the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki of rigging his way to re-election.
What began as political riots quickly turned into ethnic killings of Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe, which launched reprisal attacks, plunging Kenya into its worst wave of violence since independence in 1963.
Kenyatta and Ruto, rivals in 2007, ran together in 2013 elections for the presidency, beating Odinga by a narrow margin in largely peaceful polls.