News / Africa

Kenya Pushes for Delay as ICC Trial of Kenyatta Looms

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives to attend Mashujaa (Heroes) Day at the Nyayo National Stadium in capital Nairobi, Oct. 20, 2013.
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives to attend Mashujaa (Heroes) Day at the Nyayo National Stadium in capital Nairobi, Oct. 20, 2013.
Gabe Joselow
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s trial date at the International Criminal Court is now less than three weeks away.  His administration, with backing from the African Union, is lobbying for the case to be deferred. 

Kenyatta has been adept at turning the ICC charges against him from a potential blight on his career to a rallying cause for his supporters.

Accused of orchestrating violence after Kenya’s 2007 presidential election that killed more than 1,100 people, Kenyatta has characterized the charges as a neo-colonialist attack on the country.

He used the rhetoric most recently in a speech Sunday marking the country’s equivalent of Heroes Day celebrating fallen freedom fighters, like his father, Kenya's first president.

“Let us confront without flinching those external forces seeking to thwart our collective aspirations," he said.  "They may be powerful and rich, but so were the colonists.  They may disrespect, but we have defeated their ilk before.”

Kenyatta’s trial is due to begin November 12 at the ICC in The Hague, where the deputy president, William Ruto, is currently attending proceedings in a separate but similar case against him.

Meantime, Kenya and the African Union have been lobbying the United Nations Security Council to have the case deferred for a year, citing concerns about security in Kenya and the region.

The requests follow September's terrorist siege on a Nairobi shopping mall attributed to the Somalia-based militant group al-Shabab.  The argument is sitting leaders cannot react and handle future security threats, if they are out of the country for prolonged trials.

Adams Oloo, political science chair at the University of Nairobi, says Kenya and the AU are exploring “unchartered waters” in trying to get more leverage for African leaders.

“The Kenyatta regime and the African Union are saying they don’t want to set precedents in which there is a possibility of heads of state from Africa, in future, being dragged into the court.  I think that’s the problem, the major problem that they have,” he said.

Kenyatta and Ruto have cooperated with the court so far and have promised to continue to do so.

The president won what appeared to be a minor victory last week when ICC judges ruled he would not have to appear in person for all of his trial - only for the opening and closing statements, judgments and when victims testify.

Barring a deferral from the U.N., Oloo says he expects the president to continue to cooperate with the ICC, as long as chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda does not appeal the decision allowing him to skip some portions of the trial.

“I think they’ll only have a problem if Bensouda appeals and it is now demanded that he should be there physically the way the deputy president is there physically on a day-to-day basis.  I believe they would have a problem with that and would see that as trying to undermine his authority as head of state and head of government,” he said.

Bensouda has appealed against a similar decision granting Deputy President Ruto a conditional exemption to appearing at his trial.  A judgment on that appeal is due on Friday, and will indicate how much leeway might be granted to the president.

Still, some rights groups in Kenya see a potential deferral of the trial as a deferral of justice and object to Kenyatta's attempts to escape appearing in person.

“You know, in these discussions, where are the victims?" Those people who suffered, who lost their property, who lost their lives, those who lost their loved ones.  How do they access justice?" asked Stephen Musau, chairman of the Rights Promotion and Protection Center in Kenya.

If things do not go Kenyatta’s way, and were he to skip his trial altogether, he could be slapped with an international arrest warrant, like the one put on Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted for war crimes and genocide charges.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Josphat from: Nairobi
October 23, 2013 11:32 PM
While there's no doubt atrocious crimes were comitted, all witness testimony so far shows the wrong people are in the dock. Its a case visiting injustice on innocent people in the name of justice for the victims, for political expendiency. The real criminals must be in 7th heaven as ICC OTP continues down the wrong rabbit hole inspite of glaring evidence. Its also amazing that numerous claims of criminal influence of witnesses by the OTP are not being investigated

by: Collins ochieng from: Nairobi
October 23, 2013 2:15 PM
If prezo is innocent as he claims why does he fear the hague?.

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs