Museveni rails against the ICC during Kenyatta’s inauguration

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni this week astonished diplomats at a ceremony to inaugurate Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya's new leader when he accused the International Criminal Court (ICC) of blackmail, incompetence and self-interest in charging Kenyatta with crimes against humanity.

The inauguration this week, a grandiose ceremony held on the outskirts of Nairobi, made history, marking the first time an ICC indictee had been made head of state. Kenyatta and his new vice-president, William Ruto, are both due to stand trial in the court for crimes against humanity.

Kenyatta and Ruto's Jubilee Alliance has cultivated an anti-imperialist sentiment among Kenyans in recent months in the face of the ICC's charges.

When Museveni spoke on behalf of official guests at the inauguration, the masses in attendance responded with whoops and applause to his upbraiding of the ICC and the United Nations. The outgoing president, Mwai Kibaki, referred to Kenyatta and Ruto as Kenya's "dynamic duo".

For many Kenyans, however, they are the terrible two. The ICC charges against Ruto and Kenyatta relate to the aftermath of the 2007 elections, when more than 1 000 people were killed and 600000 forced from their homes. Brutal violence erupted along tribal lines almost overnight after Kibaki was perceived to have robbed his opponent of the presidency. Kenyatta and Ruto were adversaries at the time, fighting on different sides in the disputed 2007 polls. It is that violence for which Kenyatta now faces charges at The Hague. Kenyatta denies that he helped orchestrate the violence and has pledged to ­co-operate with the court. Kenyatta's trial is scheduled to begin in July, Ruto's in May.

In his inauguration speech, the new Kenyan president described his journey to power as "an unusual story, an unconventional path". Urging Kenyans to unite, he said: "The time has come not to ask what community we come from, rather what dreams we share."

Members of the public started arriving at Kenya's national football stadium at 5am. Eleven heads of state were in the audience.

Kenyatta, who was given a 21-gun salute, was sworn in with his hand on the same bible that was used 50 years earlier by his father, Kenya's first president, Jomo Kenyatta.

Museveni accused the ICC of being "arrogant actors" who ­carried out "careless and shallow analysis" and "erase the ones they don't like". He saluted Kenyan ­voters for "the rejection of the blackmail by the court and those who seek to abuse this institution for their own agenda".

Kibaki hinted that the ICC should step back and let Kenyatta rule: "Kenyans and the international community should give them the space and support to exercise their presidential mandate."

Not all Kenyans were celebrating, however. Workers at a hairdressing salon in Karen, a leafy suburb in Nairobi that has become a favourite with Kenya's political class, were divided. The female staff, all members of Kenyatta's Kikuyu tribe, sat at the back by the basins, clapping their hands in glee as they watched their new leader hold his freshly inked oath up for the cameras like a child with a certificate at sports day. Hairdresser Jack Konah, meanwhile, sat beneath the TV with the non-Kikuyus, all male, bemoaning impunity and negative ethnicity. "That's what's killing Kenya," he said. The few customers who came in had their hair cut by stylists who kept one eye on the TV screen.

"Have you read George Orwell's Animal Farm?" Konah asked. "That's precisely what's happening to Kenya. It's the rule of a few, who will do anything to retain the ­status quo."

Ruto and Kenyatta were brought together by the ICC, he said. "When they came together, there was no war," he said, speaking of the recent contested yet peaceful polls. "But when they were on two sides, there was war," he said of the 2007 vote. "That's how we know they were the cause."

Sitting with one of her two children, Rosa Wanjiru Ngaru (33) had a different view. "If Kenyans had the confidence to vote for this guy, then he cannot have done anything bad," she said, watching Kenyatta, in an immaculate navy suit, white shirt and red tie, being presented with a sword and a bound copy of Kenya's new Constitution, the symbolic instruments of power and authority. – © Guardian News & Media 2013

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Jessica Hatcher
Jessica Hatcher works from Raleigh, NC. English Education & Sociolinguistics; NCSU grad Jessica Hatcher has over 137 followers on Twitter.

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