UNITED STATES SOFTENS STANCE ON UHURU CASE
THE US is reviewing the issue of President Uhuru Kenyatta being charged at ICC with crimes against humanity. The US assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Greenfield said she was aware of the Kenya government’s concerns in regard with Uhuru’s case which is scheduled to start on November 12.
Speaking via a video link from the US to journalists at the American Embassy in Nairobi, Greenfield said her government was in talks with Uhuru over the ICC issue. “We are aware of Kenyan concerns over the ICC issue and we are in talks with the Kenyan government,” Greenfield said.
She said though the US wants justice for victims of the 2007/8 violence, Uhuru was voted in democratically during the March 4 general election presenting a rare scenario where a serving head of state was a suspect in an ICC trial. She said the absence of a head of state usually affects a country adding the US would not want Kenya to face such a fate.
Greenfield said terrorists usually take advantage when there is a power vacuum and said such a situation should not befall Kenya.
Greenfield’s statement is in total reversal of the hardline stance taken by her predecessor and former US ambassador to Kenya Johnnie Carson who cautioned that the election of Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto would be accompanied with consequences.
“The choices Kenyans make regarding the March 4 polls have consequences,” he said just prior to the elections adding that national leaders should be and are responsible for their actions, before, during and after the elections.
The thawing of the US towards the Kenya situation at the ICC comes in the wake of a petition filed yesterday and signed by 40 out of 49 African countries which want the United Nations Security Council to order the ICC to defer the cases against Uhuru and Ruto.
In their three page petition, the African nations said the proceedings against the two “may pose a threat to the ongoing efforts in the promotion of peace, national healing and reconciliation as well as the rule of law and stability in Kenya and the region.”
“The proceedings initiated against the President and the Deputy President of Kenya will distract and divert them from fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities, including oversight for national and regional security affairs,”the letter dated October 21 says.
The African states added that the ongoing cases on the 2008 post-election violence were also a threat to efforts in the promotion of peace, national healing, reconciliation, rule of law and stability in Kenya and the region.
“Kenya plays an active and critical role in the stability and fight against terrorism at home and in the region, as demonstrated by the tragic even of the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi in September,” the letter reads.
The ICC was forced to adjourn for a week to allow Ruto to travel back to Kenya in the wake of the Westgate terror attack that left more than 60 people dead.
The African nations added that Security Council should reciprocate the cooperation that Uhuru and Ruto have had with the ICC by allowing them to run their state duties, uninterrupted.
“Kenyans democratically elected their leaders in March 2013, and they expect that their leaders will discharge their constitutional responsibilities as elected executive leaders,” the letter reads.
The letter asks the Security Council to make its decision on the deferral request before November 10 which is two days before the start of Uhuru’s trial se.
“In this regard, we also request the ICC to postpone the trial of President Uhuru Kenyatta and suspend the proceedings against Deputy President William Ruto until such time as the UN Security Council considers the request for deferral,” the letter said.
Only nine countries — Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Liberia and Tunisia did not sign the petition.
In a letter accompanying the AU request, Kenya’s UN Ambassador Macharia Kamau emphasised the danger Kenya and the entire Horn of Africa faces from terrorism.
The UN charter allows the UNSC to suspend ICC cases for upto a year if it is convinced that allowing such proceedings to continue will present a threat to international peace and security. Kenya has previously requests for a deferral but this has been denied by both the Security Council and the ICC.
On Friday, the ICC Appeals Chamber will decide whether Ruto’s continued presence throughout the trial was necessary. The trial judges had allowed him to attend only some of the sessions.