Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s appearance at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face a variety of charges, including crimes against humanity, demonstrates respect for Kenya’s constitution and the country’s obligation as a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, according to John Muriithi Waiganjo, a leading member of Kenya’s Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.
“It’s a demonstration that our president respects the constitution of Kenya, respects international treaties and conventions, and has committed to cooperate with the International Criminal Court, because he believes he is innocent.,” said Waiganjo. “He has been consistent with the cooperation of the court, and he does not see any problem, in appearing in that court in his capacity as Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, not his Excellency the president of Kenya.”
The ICC accuses Kenyatta of playing a role in Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election violence that left about 1,300 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes.
Waiganjo was one of about 120 Kenyan lawmakers present at the court to show their support for Kenyatta.
Critics say Kenya has become a laughing stock since the head of state was ordered by the court to appear before judges at The Hague.
“President Kenyatta has demonstrated to the world that being a president of an independent republic does not necessarily mean that you cannot…handle your own personal challenges, and that Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta can appear in a criminal court under criminal jurisprudence and defend [his] name," he said. "So those who are saying he is an embarrassment to the country are wrong.”
“Kenya has now taken its place in the world map as a country that is led by a man who respects the rule of law,” Waiganjo continued. “It is very important that African leaders and world leaders should know that international conventions and treaties are not in vain.”
ICC prosecutors expressed concern that the government in Nairobi has so far refused to provide needed information to use as evidence against Kenyatta. The government denies the accusation.
Waiganjo said Kenyatta has cooperated with the ICC in spite of accusations that the administration in Nairobi has failed to collaborate with the court.
Some opposition groups criticized the Kenyan lawmakers who went to the Hague-based court to support Kenyatta, saying it wasted taxpayers’ money, and that their presence is unlikely to positively impact proceedings against Kenyatta.
Waiganjo says it is common for friends of the accused to demonstrate moral support during court proceedings in Kenya.
“There is nothing usual about it,” he said. “I came to the Hague as a friend to Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, but not as a member of parliament. So, really there is nothing wrong…There is absolutely no problem even if all the members of parliament were to be here. Because everybody has made arrangements to get the works going on in their respective constituencies. I don’t see anything wrong with this attendance.”