Six Kenyan leaders were today accused of being behind organised violence following the country's 2007 election that left more than 1,000 people dead.
The International Criminal Court's prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo wants judges to charge them with crimes against humanity including murder, rape and torture.
The violence began over who would take the presidency and then took on ethnic overtones. But it is the case against former higher education minister William Ruto that could cause the most violent backlash in Kenya.
Kenya's police commissioner, Mathew K. Iteere, warned that "criminal elements" were looking to use Mr Moreno Ocampo's announcement as an opportunity to break the law and vowed to crack down on any violence.
Mr Moreno Ocampo said that Ruto began plotting attacks on supporters of President Mwai Kibaki a year before the election and worked together with Minister for Industrialisation Henry Kosgey and radio broadcaster Joshua Sang to co-ordinate a campaign of killing and forced deportations in the Rift Valley.
In a separate case, Mr Moreno Ocampo charged Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta - son of Kenyan independence hero and founding president Jomo Kenyatta - alongside Cabinet secretary Francis Muthaura and former police commissioner Maj. Gen. Mohammed Hussein Ali with murder, deportation, persecution, rape and inhumane acts allegedly committed in retaliation against supporters of Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
"These six are the persons most responsible according to our evidence," Mr Moreno Ocampo said. He asked judges to confirm the charges and order the six suspects to turn themselves in to the war crimes tribunal.
He said he expected the suspects to surrender voluntarily. He also asked them to not contact each other, to not try to interfere with the investigation or trial, or commit new crimes.
Judges will study the prosecutor's evidence and make their decision early next year.
Mr Moreno Ocampo defended his decision not to name either Mr Odinga or Mr Kibaki in the charges.
"We followed strictly the evidence ... we are not focussed on political responsibility," he said. "I have no evidence allowing me to go further."
Deadly clashes erupted after Kenya's disputed 2007 presidential election, including indiscriminate bow and arrow, machete and gunfire attacks that killed more than 1,000.
Ethnic tensions in Kenya have simmered for decades, with much of the violence traced back to the desire for land. After independence in 1963, Jomo Kenyatta sent masses of his own Kikuyu group to occupy land in Western Kenya native to the Kalenjin tribe.
The newcomers prospered, growing into the most powerful of Kenya's 42 ethnic groups, running businesses and politics. But favouritism shown to Kikuyus fuelled resentments.
Kikuyus in the Rift Valley were targeted in ethnic clashes during elections in 1992 and 1997, when then-President Daniel arap Moi sponsored gangs from his Kalenjin tribe to intimidate his opponents.
Three of the six suspects named come from the Kalenjin tribe, the group that Ruto is a leader of.
The Kalenjins dominate the Rift Valley and the reaction to the charges there will be key to Kenya's peace in coming days.
President Mwai Kibaki said today the government had intensified security around the country to protect lives and property of all citizens. Kibaki also said the government is committed to establishing a local tribunal to deal with post-election violence, an idea that has resurfaced only this week as the criminal announcement loomed.
The clashes erupted along tribal lines following an announcement that Mr Kibaki - a Kikuyu - had won a vote that opponents said was rigged.
A bloodbath was stopped only after former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan mediated a peace agreement that created a coalition government in which Mr Odinga was appointed prime minister.
The clashes severely damaged Kenya's reputation. It has the region's largest economy and has long been regarded as a haven of stability in a region rocked by war.