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Kenyans watch as their leaders take the stand at ICC hearing

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“I never thought that the day would come when someone from that class would be called to answer questions like that,” said Margaret Adhiambo, a grocer lining up to deposit her day’s pay at a Nairobi bank Thursday afternoon.

Beginning of the end of impunity?

Kenya’s leaders and the heads of its most prominent families have long been accused of acting in their own interests – legally and illegally – with impunity. Local prosecutions of corruption, nepotism, or financial impropriety rarely succeed.

That is why these hearings at the ICC in The Hague carry such a weight of expectation for justice for crimes committed during two months of violence following Kenya’s 2007 presidential elections.

More than 1,100 people died and 630,000 were forced from their homes as supporters of rival politicians clashed in a handful of ethnically divided towns, mostly in the Rift Valley which scythes through the country’s center.

Faith in the ICC wobbles

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, took up the case when it became clear that promised domestic processes and tribunals in Kenya were stumbling.

Even had they gone ahead, they would have been seen by a majority of the population as open to manipulation by the country’s powerful, opinion polls show.

But support for the Hague process – which ran nationwide at close to 70 percent in late 2010 – had dropped by as much as half in Kenyatta’s strongholds in central Kenya by August this year, according to a recent poll.

Synovate, a Kenyan market research firm, found that those agreeing that they backed the ICC trials there had dropped from 70 percent to 36 percent. In areas traditionally supportive of the men contesting the second case at The Hague, a similar pattern emerged.

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