Kenya Probably Just Elected a President Charged with 'Crimes Against Humanity'

With more than half the votes counted in Kenya's presidential election, Uhuru Kenyatta holds a commanding lead over his rival and current boss, despite the fact he will soon find himself at the Hague.

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With more than nearly half the votes counted in yesterday's presidential election in Kenya, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta holds a commanding lead over his rival and current boss, despite the fact Kenyatta will soon find himself in front of the International Criminal Court at the Hague. Kenyatta, who according to The New York Times leads the vote 55 percent to 41 percent over challenger Raila Odinga, has previously been brought up on charges of "crimes against humanity" after he was accused of organizing death squads to target rival ethnic groups following the last presidential election in 2007.

Odinga lost that election, too, but claims of vote fraud and ballot rigging sparked a nationwide war between his supporters and those of the current president, Mwai Kibaki. Odinga's supporters rioted in protest of the disputed vote—which election monitors agreed was suspect—leading to clashes with police and continuing series of reprisals that killed more than 1,200 people over a two-month span.

Following the violent aftermath of the last election, a power-sharing agreement was reached where  Kibaki assumed his role as president, and the largely ceremonial position of Prime Minister was created for Odinga to serve in. Kenyatta, who hails from the same ethnic group and political party as Kibaki, was appointed to be one of his deputies. Now it seems Kenyatta will succeed Kibaki as president and Odinga will be the odd man out once again.

Early indications are that voting was split almost completely along ethnic and tribal lines, with most citizens voting for the candidate who comes from their ethnic group. But to give you some idea of the bizarre nature of Kenyan politics, Kenyatta's running mate and deputy presidential candidate is William Ruto, a former cabinet minister who is ethnically related not to Kenyatta's clan but Odinga's. He supported Odinga in 2007 and is accused of leading much of the violence directed at Kibaki's people after the disputed election, including an infamous church fire where 17 women and children were burned alive. For that reason, Ruto has also been charged with crimes against humanity. Yet, despite being indicted by ICC for trying to kill each other's people, Kenyatta and Ruto are now poised to run Kenya together.

In addition to being highly tribal, Kenya's political system is also highly dynastic. Kenyatta's father was the first president of independent Kenya, and Odinag's father was the first Vice President, another case of two competing ethnic groups (temporarily) joining forces.

Speaking of Kenyan political dynasties, Abong'o Malki Obama's attempt to create a new one may have fallen short. The half-brother of the United States's president appears to have failed in his bid to become a local governor, but claims he's the unfortunate victim of voter fraud. Let's hope none of the disputed votes lead to a repeat of the 2007 bloodbath.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.