Anti-Western Rhetoric Grows over ICC Cases

The United Nations Security Council’s rejection of a resolution to suspend the International Criminal Court cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto has fuelled anti-western sentiment.

The Security Council on November 15 rejected an African Union demand for the suspension of the ICC cases and political leaders have since criticised the decision, targeting the United States, France and Britain, three of the eight council members that abstained from the vote.

“What happened at the Security Council is a testimony of Kenya’s genuine friends, who can stand with us at all times. We now know who we can work with and who we cannot,” said Mr Ruto, whose trial is going on at The Hague, during a rally on Saturday.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, an ally of Mr Ruto, accused the three nations of cowardice and being unfriendly. “It has clearly come out who our friends are and who we will do business with. Those who voted against us can look for business elsewhere because we shall not conduct business with our enemies,” he said.

Other leaders asked President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto to consider severing links with the eight nations that abstained in the vote. “We will sit down and go back to the drawing board and see why we put our energies as a country to help countries which hold back their help when we need it. Development cannot be brought by leaders who are forever behind the dock,” said Nairobi County women representative Rachel Shebesh.

Leaders also called for President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto not to attend their trials at The Hague.

“You should not attend The Hague trials. It’s hypocritical for western nations to abstain from Security Council voting thinking that our issues are not important yet we have devoted our time to fight terrorism, which is their issue,” said Kiambu senator Kimani Wamatangi.

Three British diplomats were last week ejected from a hotel in Eldoret where they were scheduled to meet members of civil society organisations in the region, an action that was condemned by the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy.

The anti-western rhetoric, as well as the risk of leaders failing to attend their trials at The Hague could lead to Kenya’s isolation on the international stage, joining nations such as Sudan and Zimbabwe.

EXEMPTIONS FOR HEADS OF STATE

African and international organizations with a presence in Africa said have called on the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statutes to reject special exemptions for sitting officials before the ICC.

“Human rights abuses by governments and armed groups remain one of the biggest challenges confronting people in Africa,” George Kegoro, executive director at the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya said in a joint statement issued in Nairobi. “Ideally, domestic courts will ensure justice for these crimes, but the ICC serves as a crucial court of last resort when they are unable or unwilling,” said Kegoro.

They said some African leaders have taken the position that the ICC is targeting Kenya, adding that the ICC prosecutor’s office acted to open an investigation after Kenyan authorities failed to respond adequately to post-election violence.

A recent opinion poll conducted by Ipsos-Synovate indicated that most Kenyans would like President Kenyatta to attend trial at the ICC after the court allowed him to be absent for some of the sessions. The poll showed 67 percent of those interviewed would like the president to attend court so that he can clear his name.

“Britain and U.S. cannot just severe links with Kenya because our leaders are insulting them,” said economics lecturer Henry Wandera. “That can only happen if negotiations fail. Despite the bile against the nations, Kenyans should not worry so much about the issue. The sanctions may be real, but Kenya is too important for western nations that they cannot put restrictions on us,” he said.

Among those defending western nations from politicians’ wrath are opposition leaders led by Kenya’s former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who has urged leaders to stop abusing western powers.

Government officials say the rejection of the bid means the fate of President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto lies with the nations that are signatories to the Rome Statute.

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said Monday that the AU would use the Assembly of State Parties meeting to present its position on the Kenyan ICC cases after UNSC snubbed its deferral request.

Amb. Mohamed said the AU will push for amendment of the Rome Statutes to provide for immunity from prosecution to sitting heads of state and government. “We are going to the State Parties meeting at The Hague. We will present the AU proposal for amendment of the Rome statute and are optimistic of a positive consideration,” she said in a statement issued from her office.

Amb. Mohamed said African states came together for the common good of the member countries and would meet to discuss the way forward after rejection of its petition to the UNSC. “The decision by some permanent members of the UN Security Council to abstain from voting on AU request for deferral of ICC cases facing President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto was a disappointment,” she said.

Amb. Mohamed said the AU was confident of garnering the support of a two-thirds majority of the Assembly necessary to effect the amendment in the interest of peace and reconciliation in the country.

The meeting’s general debate and scheduled session on the impact of indicting sitting heads of state will offer African and other governments important opportunities to affirm support for the ICC’s independent role in ensuring justice for the gravest crimes.

– Daily Nation

A demonstration against the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Nairobi on October 2, 2013. PHOTO | SAM NDIRAINGU

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