News / Africa

Reports: Kenya Seeks African Support for ICC Withdrawal

International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, left, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, center, and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, right, walk outside Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, Dec 2, 2010
International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, left, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, center, and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, right, walk outside Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, Dec 2, 2010
Michael Onyiego

The campaign to remove Kenya from the International Criminal Court appears to be gathering steam as the east African nation looks to rally diplomatic support across Africa.
Members of Kenya’s cabinet are currently crossing the continent to gain African Union support for withdrawal from the court, the country’s major news outlets are reporting Wednesday.

Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper and Capital FM radio station have reported that Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka is in South Africa Wednesday to discuss withdrawal with President Jacob Zuma. The vice president is expected to visit Uganda on Thursday to push for further support from President Yoweri Museveni.

While news of the government-wide push contradicts past statements by Kenyan leaders, the Director for the Nairobi-based International Center for Policy and Conflict, Ndungu Wainaina, doubts whether the current coalition government ever actually supported the court.

“The war against ICC in Kenya is deeper than what it seems on the face," said Wainaina. "Despite the various public statements by individual members, individual cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister, we have not seen a collective government position since this new war against the ICC began.”

It has been less than a month since International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced six suspects are to face judges in The Hague for their roles in Kenya’s post-election violence three years ago. The list, which confirmed speculation involving prominent politicians, such as Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and presidential hopeful William Ruto, also contained surprises, like civil servant Francis Muthaura and journalist Joshua arap Sang.

The past month has seen the Kenyan Parliament introduce a motion to withdraw from the court, along with accusations of “western imperialism” and anti-African bias.

Since the announcement of the “Hague Six,” support for local investigations into the 2007-2008 violence has grown. The Kenyan cabinet held a meeting Wednesday to discuss alternatives to the international court and President Mwai Kibaki has publicly voiced support for local trials. A Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2009 to try suspects, but the groups work was permanently stalled by an ethics scandal surrounding its chairman.

ICPC Director Wainaina told VOA that no other local tribunal was likely to succeed in Kenya. “The Kenyan government has never set up a credible and tested witness protection mechanism. Because that is a precondition in terms of being able to carry out successful prosecutions and a fair trial for that matter.”

If the government’s African lobbying efforts are successful, the AU summit to take place on January 30 and January 31 in Ethiopia could produce a continent-wide blessing for Kenya’s rejection of the court. The regional body has, in the past, been at odds with the judges in The Hague.

In 2009 the AU called for a deferment of the arrest warrants issued for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The body subsequently refused to recognize the warrants when the request was denied. Bashir was indicted by the court in 2008 for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, allegedly committed during the conflict in Darfur.

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