By Alphonce Shiundu and Moses Njagih
Nairobi, Kenya: Parliament voted to sanction Kenya’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) during an emergency session marred by a walkout by opposition MPs.
Cord-allied MPs stormed out of the Chamber in the early stages of the special sitting, after Speaker Justin Muturi over-ruled their two attempts to block debate on the controversial motion Thursday.
MPs from the ruling Jubilee coalition later unanimously approved the resolution urging the Government to initiate steps to pull Kenya out of the Rome Statute, which established the ICC.
If the resolution “to suspend any links, cooperation and assistance” to the court is followed through, Kenya becomes the first state to revoke its membership of the ICC.
The Government is required to introduce a bill within 30 days to repeal the International Crimes Act that domesticated the Rome Statute. If it is approved, the Government will notify the UN secretary general of Kenya’s decision to sever ties with the ICC.
That process, however, will take one year. ICC officials have cautioned that the action has no bearing on the trials of President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto. The pair has denied the crimes against humanity charges alongside journalist Joshua Sang over the 2008 post-election violence. The trial of Ruto and Sang in Case One opens on Tuesday.
Thursday, Jubilee MPs insisted that the ICC was simply perpetuating a “neo-colonial agenda”.
The MPs invoked the sovereignty and independence of the country to justify calls for the cases to be tried at home. MPs attacked the civil society, especially the African Centre for Open Governance (Africog), as the architects of the two Kenyan cases at The Hague.
At one point, the Speaker stepped in with a stern warning to MPs as the debate degenerated into personalised attacks and lewd abuse by members.
“We shall not engage in a shouting match here. If you do not feel like listening, you can quietly withdraw from the Chamber so that you allow the debate to go on. If you keep shouting, I will treat that as gross disorder and I will throw you out,” Muturi warned.
Earlier, Cord MPs had attempted to scuttle the debate using two strategies. They challenged the constitutionality of the motion, arguing that it did not meet the threshold of emergency debates detailed in House rules.
They also argued that the special sitting was not properly convened because the gazette notice convening the session was signed by Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso. The Speaker dismissed both arguments.
Aden Duale, Majority Leader in the House, rallied Jubilee troops saying that super-powers such as the United States, China, Russia and India had refused to join the ICC.
Therefore, by withdrawing, Kenyans would be joining “more stable countries,” he added.
“We will protect our citizens. It is not about impunity; it is about coaching of witnesses and politically-motivated charges,” said Duale.
He claimed that the civil society and the international community had worked together to frustrate Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto from ascending to power. “I want to confirm to the House that the owners of the ICC have walked out. The owners of the ICC project have walked out,” said Duale, as the opposition MPs walked out in protest.
Duale added that they were walking out “because they cannot watch a country redeem its independence.”
Duale said it was now time to turn back the clock by having a petition to compel the former chairman of the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence, Justice Philip Waki, to hand over his report to President Kenyatta complete with the envelope containing all the names of the perpetrators, so that they are tried in Kenya.
Duale claimed that Waki must have deleted his “friends” from the list of suspects, and that he “balanced it” for political consideration. “We must know all those who were in the envelope,” he added.
Duale’s motion was seconded by Mukurweini MP Kabando wa Kabando, who insisted that what was being witnessed was neo-colonialism at play, and that the sovereignty of the country was threatened.
But Minority Leader Francis Nyenze led the opposition in fending off the motion. Nyenze said the majority leader ought to be talking to the opposition before bringing motions to the House. He warned that moving Kenya out of the Rome Statute was akin to exposing the country to international ridicule.
“When the deputy speaker recalled the House, I thought we were going to discuss more pressing issues such as the Value Added Tax Act that has seen prices of basic commodities rise, or the insecurity in the country. Not the ICC,” said Nyenze.
He argued that Jubilee might have the numbers, but Cord had the majority of counties. Bura MP Ali Wario protested against the ICC. “Taking our leaders to the ICC is economic sabotage; it is an attack on our society and it is an attack on the political order of the country.”
Deputy Leader of the Minority Jakoyo Midiwo warned that pulling Kenya out of the ICC was dangerous for the fight against impunity.
Midiwo said the ongoing cases against Kethi Kilonzo, who was Africog’s lawyer in this year’s presidential petition, appeared to be payback by the Jubilee government.
“A government that victimises its citizens needs a big brother, and that big brother is the ICC. As Cord, we shall never be party to placing this country in a situation where a despot can come and kill people and have no one to answer to,” said Midiwo.
He dismissed claims that Kenya should pull out because the US was not a member, countering that the judicial and law enforcement systems in the US were superior to Kenya’s.
As Midiwo spoke, Cord MPs walked out and addressed a news conference at which they denounced the decision to pull Kenya out of the ICC.
“We’re against this motion. We cannot be party to it. It is an evil scheme. We don’t believe in it. There’s no need to keep sitting to support something that we do not agree with,” Nyenze told journalists on the lawns of Parliament.