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Ruto’s ICC question ‘non-issue’ in Obama visit

By Stephen Makabila | Published Sat, July 25th 2015 at 00:00, Updated July 25th 2015 at 09:27 GMT +3

Kenyan political analysts feel the question of whether or not Deputy President William Ruto plays a pivotal role in the current visit by United States (US) President Barack Obama remains a non-issue.

"This question has been thrown out of proportion by Kenyans because no one in the US has raised it. It is being fuelled by some people for political propaganda against the Deputy President and the government," points out Prof Peter Kagwanja, the African Policy Institute (API) Chief Executive Officer.

Obama invited Kenyatta to the first US-Africa Leaders' Summit in Washington in 2014 when he was still facing the International Criminal Court (ICC) case and they met. Therefore, the issue of Ruto and ICC during this current Obama tour is totally a non-issue," noted Kagwanja.

Then, inclusion of the Kenyan head of state among 47 African leaders was seen as having marked a decisive turn for the better in relations between the Obama and Kenyatta administrations.

Separate engagements

US National Security Advisor Susan Rice announced ahead of the visit that President Obama has "no plans for any separate engagements" with Deputy President William Ruto, in response to a reporter's question about meeting the Kenyan official on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"He is a member of the Government and so will be present at some of the events," she added in regard to Ruto.

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Then President Uhuru Kenyatta had on Tuesday during his State address deflected questions on whether his deputy, who is facing criminal charges at The Hague, will have the opportunity of meeting President Obama, terming it a 'non-issue'.

"Certainly, we look forward to what is to come; to partnerships, to shared prosperity, and to a new era of innovation," noted the President.

There have been speculations that Ruto was unlikely to meet Obama when he visits the homeland of his late father, due to the crimes against humanity charges facing him (Ruto) at the ICC.

Ahead of Kenya's 2013 presidential election, Western powers sent out strong signals against electing two suspects who faced trial at the ICC, and warned it would have "consequences" for the country internationally.

"Choices have consequences," the then US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson said.

Ruto did not meet the US Secretary of State John Kerry when he visited the country but political analyst Mutahi Ngunyi has argued Kerry may not be Obama and that the Deputy President must attend all Obama events in Nairobi.

Ruto's spokesman David Mugonyi had earlier confirmed that Ruto did not meet Kerry, but dismissed speculation that this was due to the "essential contacts" policy of the US government hinted at in diplomatic circles in 2013 when both the President and the DP were newly in office and had cases at the ICC.

"If I were Ruto, I will put on my best suit and be ready to meet Obama. If Obama fails to shake Ruto's hand, Ruto will be the winner not Obama," noted Ngunyi.

Kagwanja points out that it is wrong to bring ICC issues into the Obama visit because Ruto has not been proved guilty.

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