Uhuru Kenyatta in secret talks with John Kerry as leaders condemn International Criminal Court cases

President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing the AU Summit. (Photo:PPS)

By Ally Jamah

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: President Uhuru Kenyatta met US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday against the background of strong sentiment from fellow African leaders against the International Criminal Court (ICC).

His meeting with Kerry, whose subject remained private, took place even as it emerged from the closed session Sunday that 53 countries out 54 had all expressed dissatisfaction at alleged humiliation and embarrassment of African leaders by The Hague-based ICC.

However, any resolution by the AU is not binding on the ICC in the two Kenyan cases where President Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang are facing charges of crimes against humanity.

Kenyatta’s is the second case while Ruto and Sang are together in the first case. However, analysts say any resolution by the AU against the ICC only serves to boost Uhuru’s standing on the continent.

The African leaders on Sunday evening unanimously passed a resolution over their future involvement with the ICC where they agreed to push for Kenyan cases to be brought back to the country.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni and his Zambian counterpart Michael Sata lead those pushing for either a termination or referral of the cases to Kenya.

A Presidential Press Service dispatch said Kenyatta told African leaders Kenya is ready to handle other post-election violence cases, thanks to what he termed as “far-reaching reforms” in the Judiciary and other key institutions.

“We have adopted a new Constitution, undertaken far-reaching reforms in the judiciary, vetting our judges in public under the watch of more than 40 million Kenyans and beyond, expanded the freedoms of all Kenyans, put in place a new electoral machinery, a devolved system of governance that ensures equity for all, a reformed Public Service, security sector, and many others”, said Kenyatta.

He added: “Our reformed Judiciary enjoys public confidence and became a beacon for the country when, following an election dispute of a similar nature to that of 2007/2008, it processed the petition expeditiously and delivered a judgment that enabled us to move forward as a nation.”

Sources told The Standard that the leaders, who spoke in a closed-door session Sunday evening, roundly criticised the ICC for allegedly targeting African leaders and embarrassing them.

They specifically requested that the cases against President Kenyatta and his deputy Ruto be referred to Kenya rather than being handled in “foreign courts and judges”

African foreign ministers who met last week in the Ethiopian capital agreed to a request to “terminate” the case at the level of the ICC and to rely on the national judiciary that is being reformed. This agreement was forwarded to the summit for approval.

The final text of the decision of the African leaders about the ICC cases facing Kenyatta will be made public today as the African Union summit wraps up its conference.

Sources inside the meeting rooms indicated that no substantive changes were made to the draft.

Without any reference to the Kenyan cases at The Hague, Kenyatta told African leaders that Kenya has learnt enduring lessons from the post-election violence of 2007/08 by putting in place a new constitution and reforming the Judiciary and other sectors.

The President also did not express any desire to have the trials conducted in Kenya. 

But he reinforced his statement on Kenya’s advancement by noting that competitive electoral politics in African countries often pose a huge security risk to national stability, since disputes tend to degenerate into outright violence, bitter divisions and disorder.

Zambia’s President Michael Sata insisted that the ICC should allow Kenya and other African countries handle their own affairs, including delivering justice to alleged perpetrators of political violence and killings

“It’s time that Africa should handle its own affairs. We should not allow foreigners to be coming to interfere with us. If you find Kenyan President or Zambian President is at fault with the Kenyan people or Zambian people, let the Kenyan or Zambian people deal with him, not somebody in Hague. Why can’t they (Westerners) try their own relatives?” he asked.

Kenyatta is the second sitting President who faces trial at The Hague-based ICC. He and Ruto are separately accused of being behind the violence that followed the disputed 2007 presidential election and which left more than 1,300 people dead and 600,000 displaced.

The two men, who came to power following a vote in March, say they will fight for their innocence at the court.

Amnesty International had urged African leaders to throw out Kenya’s proposal to the UN to end the ICC cases, saying it was a “worrying attempt by the Kenyan authorities to avoid justice”.

The rights group called on the 34 AU members who have signed the ICC’s founding Rome Statute, including Kenya, to “protect the international justice mechanism they have committed to”.