14 February 2013

Africa News Round

In Kenya, the Daily Nation reports that bail terms for Jubilee presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto are complicating the Kenya case, the International Criminal Court president, Mr Sang-Hyun Song, has said.

The ICC president, the equivalent of a chief justice, expressed the sentiments a day to a status conference at The Hague scheduled for Thursday to agree on how the trial proceedings will be conducted.

The freedom which the suspects will enjoy during the period, will also be on the cards.

Judge Song admitted that the ICC was encountering difficulties in prosecuting the cases facing Mr Kenyatta and former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura on the one hand and on the other case against Mr Ruto and Kass FM radio journalist Joshua arap Sang.

Even though the trials are set to start in April, he said a number of factors were complicating the case. He did not elaborate.

"Since there are many variables here, we don't know what is going to happen. At the moment, I must admit that the logistic aspect of the Kenya case, for example, is not necessarily easy," he said.

He argued that although Mr Kenyatta, Mr Ruto, Mr Muthaura and Mr Sang promised to attend the proceedings during the ruling at the confirmation of charges hearings, there were doubts if they will attend, in person, the entire trials.

"These four suspects are under summons to appear. They are not arrested people. They kept on saying they will comply with the ICC procedures and so on and so forth."

While Mr Muthaura and Mr Sang flew to the Hague on Tuesday to attend the conference, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto opted for a video link which will be held at a secret location in Nairobi.

"These matters are precisely the issues which I believe will be addressed at the status conference which is an audience held from time to time to discuss preparations for trial or other peripheral issues not involving the hearing of witnesses," said Mr Kaufman.

Trial Chamber judges Kuniko Ozaki, Christine Van den Wyngaert and Chile Eboe-Osuji, in their communication, said the conference will deal with issues which include the liberty of the suspects.

"The main purpose of the status conference is to discuss the conditions of the summonses to appear issued by the Pre-Trial Chamber as well as to address any practical, financial and/or legal matters related to the attendance of the accused at trial, including the modalities of the accused's stay on the territory of the host state during the trial," they said.

In Zimbabwe government minister Eric Matinenga has said the key referendum on a new constitution has been "tentatively" set for 16 March, the BBC reports.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the referendum would herald a major step towards democratic reform, AFP news agency reports.

It would be followed by elections, expected to be contested by Mr Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe.

The date was announced as the election chief resigned, citing ill health.

The 88-year-old Mr Mugabe has been in power since independence in 1980.

Details of the new constitution, agreed by Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai, have not been officially released.

But it is believed that it sets a limit of two terms for future presidents.

Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has been accused of unleashing violence against MDC supporters, an allegation it denied.

The two parties then formed a coalition government under pressure from regional leaders.

"I can confirm 16 March is the tentative referendum date," said Mr Matinenga, the constitutional affairs minister, an MDC member.

"I've indicated that maybe there's a need to rethink so that at least we have two days of voting for the referendum," he added, in a briefing to journalists in the capital, Harare.

Sources say the general elections are expected to be held between 15 and 30 July.

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