Judges threatened ahead of Kenyan vote - chief justice
By Richard Lough | February 21, 2013 5:00 AM EST
Kenya's chief justice said on Wednesday he and other judges had been threatened by a criminal gang who warned them against trying to stop a candidate accused of bankrolling tribal violence running for the presidency next month.
Uhuru Kenyatta, a former finance minister and the son of the country's founding president, is one of four Kenyans accused at the International Criminal Court of orchestrating violence that killed 1,200 people after the last vote in 2007.
Chief justice Willy Mutunga, appointed in 2011 to reform a judiciary seen as in the pay of the political elite, said he had received the threats from a criminal gang known as Mungiki, who want to prevent any legal obstacles to Kenyatta running.
Kenyatta is accused of financing attacks meted out in 2007 by the Mungiki against supporters of then opposition leader Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who narrowly leads Kenyatta in the opinion polls ahead of the March 4 election.
Mutunga said attacks against five judges - including some with guns - and threats against him were evidence of an emerging "pattern of harassment" of the judiciary before the vote.
"Let no individual, group, candidate or supporter imagine that cowardly and dark acts such as these will cower us. We have seen and overcome worse, and we will all soldier on for this country. None will be held hostage by a cabal of retrogrades," he told a news conference.
Rights groups have sought the courts' help to strike Kenyatta out of the race, saying his integrity was discredited by his trial at The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity.
The vote also includes parliamentary and regional elections in a country of 40 million people where tribal links still have a big influence on voters' political allegiances.
Ethnic rivalries fed 2007's fighting, which damaged the image of the east African country, the region's most powerful economy and a key ally in the U.S.-led war against militant Islam in the region.
Kenyatta's Jubilee Coalition - which also includes the party of his running mate former Education Minister William Ruto - condemned the threats.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms, any actions that infringe on the safety, security and capacity for judicial officers to discharge their duties without fear or intimidation," the coalition said in a statement.
"We wish to emphatically deny that the chief justice has been threatened by supporters of Uhuru Kenyatta or William Ruto."
Ruto is also facing charges at the International Criminal Court for his alleged role in directing the 2007 violence. He and Kenyatta deny wrongdoing.
An independent judiciary is a cornerstone of the Kenya's new constitution, adopted in 2010, and a critical element of a peace deal brokered by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan to end the post-election violence.
"I have given most of my life to a better Kenya and if taking it is what is required to consolidate and secure our democratic gains in this election, or even thereafter, that is a price I am prepared to pay," Mutunga said.
(Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Alison Williams)
Most Popular Slideshows
- Prince William & Kate Middleton Caught Flirting In A Countryside Dinner Date [PHOTOS]
- Kate Middleton’s Mom Accused Of Being A Social Climber, Prince George Not Seen By Relatives
- What Happens When You Give Up Sex For 12 Months? – Dialogue With Peter Lynagh – Exclusive
- 2014 US Open: Hottest Female Tennis Athletes [PHOTOS]
Join the Conversation
- Tourre on stand says email in SEC case 'not accurate'
- Syrian authorities blocking access to needy in Homs - Red Cross
- Faith in European Union at low ebb, EU poll says
- Former UBS banker gets 18 months, $1 million fine, for muni bid-rigging scheme
- U.S. judge halts challenges to Detroit's bankruptcy bid
- 5.5-Inch iPhone 6 is iPhone Air on Sept 19 Release Date: 5 Things to Consider Before Buying
- Pricey iPhone 6 on Release Date Likely but with 3X Retina Resolution & Mobile Payment Service – Reports
- Nexus 6 Release Date Update: Moto X+1 Look Leaked, Nexus X or Shamu Moved to Demo Phase
- Google Nexus 8 Confirmed as HTC T1 aka Volantis/Flounder with Freshly-Leaked Specs & Features – Reports
- HTC One M8 for Windows Vs. Nokia Lumia Icon, The Battle Of Windows Phones
- Europe, US Next on ISIS’ Hit List, Says Saudi King; Seized ISIS Laptop Reveals Terrifying Bio-Warfare Plans
- iPhone 6 On Release Date To Feature Qualcomm MDM9625M LTE, 1GB RAM, Mobile Payment Deal With AMEX, 1334x750 Display