The Observer (Kampala)

11 October 2013

Africa: World Awaits Africa's Decision On Quitting ICC

opinion

At a special meeting of African leaders on Saturday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the International Criminal Court will face new scrutiny as Africa reviews its relationship with the court.

A Kenyan official has said Uganda is one of the countries leading the campaign that could further dismember the court's ranks if more African states follow Kenya out of ICC.

Although Kenya passed a motion to withdraw from the ICC, its Foreign Affairs minister, Amina Mohamed, has denied reports Kenya was calling on African countries to withdraw from the ICC en masse.

As the world awaits the outcome of the African leaders' special meeting in Addis Ababa tomorrow (Saturday), diplomatic sources indicate that there are quiet plans sponsored by Uganda and Kenya to urge AU member states, through a resolution, to withdraw from the Rome Statute.

But Uganda's Foreign Affairs ministry yesterday denied sponsoring any withdrawal plans but maintained its opposition to the ICC's trial of Kenyan leaders.

"I don't know about such plans but our position is clear and the president has repeatedly stated it," said Asuman Kiyingi, the state minister for Regional Affairs.

Early this month, while addressing the media at State lodge Nakasero, President Museveni said his government, that of Kenya and other African governments, were of the view the ICC was being misused by some groups. Museveni, who is opposed to the prosecution of Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto at the ICC for crimes against humanity, said Kenya's problems were not legal, but political.

Kenyatta and Ruto are alleged to have sponsored the country's 2007 post-election violence that led to the death of some 1,200 people and displaced more than 600,000. Kenyatta's trial is set to start in The Hague next month. Ruto is already on trial. Whereas Kenya's cooperation with the ICC was smooth, it changed after the two became the leaders of Kenya.

After the parliamentary resolution to pull out of the ICC, it is said that the country is persuading its allies to do the same. But Kenyan Minister Mohamed denies this.

She was quoted by the BBC as saying that it was quite naive to think that 34 countries would come together with the sole aim of moving out of the Rome Statute that established the ICC.

On Tuesday, it was reported that the AU Commission Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told a visiting Security Council delegation that the case against the two should be deferred for one year.

"She cited the recent terrorist attack on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, saying the Kenyan leaders needed to focus their attention on the country's security and could not afford to be away at The Hague-based court for weeks at a time," the Voice of America reported.

Kenya has also proposed that the trial of President Kenyatta could be held via video link. Mohamed said Kenyatta had fully cooperated with the ICC, but the circumstances had changed since he won the presidency in March.

She told a news conference on Wednesday: "Are the circumstances different? Absolutely, totally, completely, different. Before, he wasn't the head of the state of the republic.

"Today he is the head of state of the republic. It is going to be the first time that a sovereign head is brought before any court of any kind, not just here but anywhere in the world."

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