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Kenya Wins African Support to Defer ICC Prosecutions

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Several African countries are backing Kenya’s bid to have the International Criminal Court suspend prosecutions of six prominent figures accused of fomenting post 2007 election violence. A resolution of support is expected to win approval at next week’s African Union summit.

Kenya’s Vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka stopped in Addis Ababa Friday at the end of a whirlwind tour of African capitals. He is seeking support for a deferral of ICC cases against Kenya’s so-called “Ocampo Six”.

The six, most of them prominent politicians, were summoned to The Hague last month by ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo to face charges of masterminding the ethnic violence that left more than 1,000 people dead following Kenya’s 2007 elections. The ICC judges accepted Moreno Ocampo’s request to prosecute the case after he argued last year that crimes against humanity had been committed.

But Vice President Musyoka  contends that the ICC is meant to be a ‘court of last resort’. He says the ICC decision to take up the case is a challenge to Kenya’s authority.

"An indictment by the ICC carries with it a certain stigma, a lot of stigma, and gives the impression that a country is in the category of a failed state. Kenya is not in that category," said Vice-president Musyoka. "That is why we are making every effort to get our country back. We have to deal with this ICC challenge."

Musyoka’s schedule in Ethiopia included talks with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping. His earlier stops included South Africa, Gabon and Nigeria, the three current African representatives on the UN Security Council. He said everyone he has talked to seems to agree that Kenya’s case merits consideration.

Officials say next week’s African Union summit is likely to approve a resolution urging the Security Council to order suspension of the Kenyan prosecutions. But Musyoka notes that a similar request in the case of the genocide charges against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir fell on deaf ears.

"It is to be recalled in the case of Sudan,"said Musyoka. "African Union put a request to the UN Security Council to be able to ask the ICC to defer the matter of indictment of President Bashir, and to date both the ICC and UN Security Council have not come back to Africa with a yes or no."

Musyoka strongly denied reports that Kenya is seeking support for a mass African withdrawal from the ICC to protest what some see as western imperialism and anti-African bias. He says the Nairobi government values its status as an ICC member in good standing.

"We’re not considering withdrawing from ICC, although our parliament in December passed a motion, carried unanimously, calling on the government to consider withdrawal from the ICC," he said. "But the government led by Kibaki has not addressed this matter."

Among the six facing ICC prosecution are Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and civil service chief Francis Muthaura,  who is considered to be President Mwai Kibaki’s most influential adviser.

President Kibaki has publicly voiced support for local trials for the accused, and Kenya’s cabinet met earlier this month to discuss possible alternatives to the international court. A Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2009 to try the accused, but the commission’s work stalled after its chairman was engulfed in an ethics scandal.

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