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Now African states in aggressive diplomatic efforts to halt ICC trials of three Kenyans

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Emerging details reveal the desperate manoeuvres by the EA leaders to get President Uhuru Kenyatta to prevent his deputy from attending the ICC sittings ahead of his own trial on charges of crimes against humanity. Photos/FILE

Emerging details reveal the desperate manoeuvres by the EA leaders to get President Uhuru Kenyatta to prevent his deputy from attending the ICC sittings ahead of his own trial on charges of crimes against humanity. Photos/FILE  Nation Media Group

By DANIEL K. KALINAKI The EastAfrican

Posted  Saturday, September 14   2013 at  15:56

In Summary

  • The EastAfrican has learnt that President Kenyatta insisted on his deputy attending court, arguing that failure to appear before the ICC could trigger a warrant of arrest and “the argument of whether they are innocent would be lost.”
  • After failing to stop Mr Ruto’s brief appearance in the ICC dock last week, African states, led by the African Union and masterminded by Uganda, are now pursuing an aggressive diplomatic effort to halt the trials.
  • In addition, President Museveni has successfully sought an extraordinary summit of the African Union, whose sole agenda will be Africa’s relationship with the ICC. The meeting is to be held in October, ahead of the start of President Kenyatta’s trial.
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Uganda and Rwanda asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to stop Deputy President William Ruto from flying to The Hague as his trial on charges of crimes against humanity kicked off last week, highly placed sources have told The EastAfrican.

The request was tabled when President Kenyatta met Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa and Rwanda’s Louise Mushikiwabo in Nairobi on September 8, two days before Mr Ruto flew out to the International Criminal Court.

The EastAfrican has learnt that President Kenyatta insisted on his deputy attending court, arguing that failure to appear before the ICC could trigger a warrant of arrest and “the argument of whether they are innocent would be lost.”

The request was part of the behind-the-scenes efforts by the African Union to stop the prosecution of President Kenyatta and his deputy on charges of crimes against humanity at the ICC in The Hague.

Mr Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang entered a “not guilty” plea to charges of murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population and persecution over the 2007/8 post-election violence that left 1,133 people dead and displaced 650,000 others. President Kenyatta, whose trial is set to begin on November 12, is charged with murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts.

After failing to stop Mr Ruto’s brief appearance in the ICC dock last week, African states, led by the African Union and masterminded by Uganda, are now pursuing an aggressive diplomatic effort to halt the trials. The strategy involves mobilising support across the continent “to turn a trial of two Kenyan politicians, into a trial of the African people.”

Kenya’s Foreign Minister Amina Mohammed last week led a delegation of regional diplomats to Addis Ababa to lobby Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, to have the AU spearhead the lobbying against the ICC.

Following the meeting, and teleconferences between the foreign ministers of Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Uganda between September 8 and 9 at which a strategy was developed to drum up pressure against the ICC, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn wrote to the ICC on September 10, urging it to respond to a request to transfer the cases against the two politicians and the journalist to local courts in Kenya.

“Until the request of the AU is considered and clearly responded to, the case should not proceed,” Mr Desalegn wrote, in his capacity as current chairperson of the 54-member African Union.

In addition, President Museveni has successfully sought an extraordinary summit of the African Union, whose sole agenda will be Africa’s relationship with the ICC. The meeting is to be held in October, ahead of the start of President Kenyatta’s trial.

According to diplomatic sources, the summit is expected to arrive at a resolution on the ICC that would force the UN to negotiate a deal to halt the trials.

Efforts to fight the cases started as soon as Kenyatta and Ruto were sworn in, with the Kenyan leaders seeking the support of President Museveni to mobilise support against the ICC. This culminated in Uganda sponsoring a motion at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in May, at which a resolution was passed urging the ICC to refer the cases back to Kenya.

“African leaders have come to a consensus that the [ICC] process that has been conducted in Africa has a flaw,” Mr Desalegn told reporters at the end of the May summit, which also marked the 50th anniversary of the AU. “The intention was to avoid any kind of impunity... but now the process has degenerated into some kind of race-hunting.”

The ICC, however, brushed off the resolution as a political instrument that had no bearing on a judicial process. Undeterred, African diplomats have continued to rally support against the process in The Hague using a two-pronged strategy.

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