A suspected war criminal to settle a hostage crisis?

Picture of a black man holding a machete, standing in front of a burning building.The BBC just reported that the trial at the Hague of William Ruto, the Kenyan deputy president, for crimes committed after the 2007 general election, has been suspended so that he can go back and deal with the crisis at the Westgate shopping centre, in which Somali militants have already murdered some 60 people and there are still hostages and others missing. His lawyer, Karim Khan, argued that Ruto had a duty to be present and the BBC correspondent said that nobody in court had any objection. Ruto is accused of plotting to establish militias and encouraging his supporters to “uproot weeds”, i.e. people of other ethnic groups to his.

This is hardly the sort of person you want in charge when the country is facing a hostage crisis: it has huge potential for a criminal response, anything from a repeat of the ending to the Moscow cinema siege (in which hostages as well as terrorists) were killed by the gas the police pumped into the building) or other hasty response, to reprisals against Somalis (and possibly other Muslims) in Kenya, particularly those in Nairobi itself. There is no guarantee that the Kenyans will send Ruto back to the Hague once this crisis is over, or they might claim that there is an “ongoing crisis” and never send him back, much as dictators the world over use “emergencies” to justify repression over decades. The last thing that needs to happen at a time like this is to put a man indicted for war crimes who thinks of people who are different to him as weeds.

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