ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopia, which currently chairs the African Union, says it supports the push by Kenya for African countries to jointly withdraw from the International Criminal Court. The ICC has put Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto on trial for alleged crimes against humanity, while President Uhuru Kenyatta is scheduled to go on trial in November.
Ethiopia says it will support Kenya’s campaign to find a continent-wide stance on possibly pulling out of the ICC. The issue is likely to be discussed at the African Union summit next month in Addis Ababa.
Government spokesman Redwan Hussein says Ethiopia feels that the ICC singles out African leaders.
“We never appreciated what the ICC has been doing, particularly when it comes African leaders, and its belittling and it’s disparaging the African leadership. So we stand by the Kenyan people and we stand by the Kenyan government,” said Redwan Hussein.
All official investigations of the ICC since it was established in 2002 have been in African countries.
That fact has prompted some African officials to refer to the court as a tool of Western powers.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn accused the ICC earlier this year of race hunting.
The ICC appointed Fatou Bensouda from Gambia last year as its new chief prosecutor. She has stated repeatedly that most cases are opened in cooperation with African countries, and dismissed the idea that the ICC is singling out African leaders.
However, Redwan believes Ethiopia will not need to actively push other African countries to take up its position during the October summit.
“They share the take that we have with ICC, so they don’t need Ethiopia’s urging or pushing them to take whatever action, because the feeling is already there in each country,” he said.
Kenyan lawmakers voted earlier this month to withdraw from the ICC, a decision that will take at least a year to take effect.
In the meantime, Kenyan Attorney General Githu Muigai says his office is cooperating with the ICC.
"From this office, I have filed documents with the court, when I have been requested to do so, demonstrating we are supporting the court in its work, and we recognize the court is an independent judicial organ," said Muigai.
President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto are being tried on charges of orchestrating the ethnic violence that swept across the country after the disputed 2007 presidential election. Both men have denied the charges, and at the start of his trial this week, Ruto pleaded not guilty.