Arusha — THE push to defer criminal cases against the President and the Deputy President of Kenya has received additional support from the East African Legislative Assembly.
A resolution moved by Honourable Christophe Bazivamo from Burundi and seconded by Honourable Mike Sebalu, Uganda on Thursday evening was emphatic that the International Criminal Court (ICC) should defer the cases against the Kenyan leaders for the period they will be in office.
The Regional Assembly passed a resolution in support of the position adopted by the African Union during the latter's extra-ordinary summit held in Addis Ababa on October 12, this year.
In the same respect, the Assembly has implored the EAC Heads of State to establish a Court with criminal jurisdiction where the said Kenyan cases could be referred to and allowed to handle similar criminal cases in future.
The Resolution avers that whilst President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President, William Ruto have pending cases, they have a constitutional mandate to execute by virtue their respective duties and that their absence while attending the trial will not fall in line with the principle of service.
EALA states that the Constitution of Kenya makes a provision for the protection of the President or person performing the said functions from criminal proceedings during their tenure of office.
The mover of the resolution further notes that the EAC Summit of Heads of State, the Kenyan National Assembly and the Senate have shown unequivocal support for the deferral as has been the case from most African leaders.
During debate, Honourable Patricia Hajabakiga said nobody could take away the responsibility of the two elected leaders to rule. "I do not support impunity," she said. "We are not second-class citizens," she added.
Honourable Mumbi Ngaru said it was important that the case of the third accused, a journalist, Joshua Arap Sang was deferred as well.
Honourable Joseph Kiangoi remarked that the mandate of the President was handed over by the citizens of the country. "It is unacceptable that a Head of State should be facing trial in a foreign land" he noted. "What we are calling for now is deferment to alleviate the suffering of Kenyan people at the moment".
Honourable Susan Nakawuki supported the motion saying although the ICC has granted permission for both leaders to miss out on some sessions, deferment at this point in time is still fundamental.
Honourable Mukasa Mbidde, however, opposed the motion on the basis that it was practically impossible to defer the case for a period of more than 12 months.
"At the moment, there is no Court that has jurisdiction to try such cases even after EALA passed a Motion in that direction. Even non-state parties can be tried in the ICC such as in the Darfur issue," he said.
The Chair of the Council of Ministers Honourable Shem Bageine, however, said the cases should be withdrawn altogether. Honourable Frederic Ngenzebuhoro said the wishes of the majority of Kenyans need to be respected.
Others in support of the motion were Honourable Saoli Ole Nkanae, Honourable Abu Bakr Ogle, Honourable Peter Mathuki and Honourable Sarah Bonaya.
Last Year EALA passed a motion urging the ICC to refer the Kenyan cases related to the post 2007-2008 election violence to the East African Court of Justice for hearing.
With that, EALA has resolved that the Council of Ministers further submits the resolutions to the 10th Extra-Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State sitting on 28th April, 2014 to amend Article 27 of the EAC Treaty.
Amendment of the Article shall provide jurisdiction to the EACJ giving it retrospective effect, the Assembly stated.
Deputy President, William Ruto is currently at the Hague together with journalist Joshua arap Sang as the trial continues.
Meanwhile, the Assembly has urged the EAC Council of Ministers to expedite the establishment and ratification of a regional mechanism for the effective implementation of decisions made in peace and security.
In this regard, EALA moved a resolution to condole with the Government and people of the Republic of Kenya following the tragic loss of lives at the recent Westgate mall attack.
The motion moved by Honourable Jeremie Ngendakumana notes that agents of terror have an agenda of perpetrating grievous mayhem in the East African partner states including killings, maiming and traumatising harmless and innocent people.