|President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and his deputy William Ruto are prayed for during a service at the African Gospel Church in Nairobi, Sunday. [PHOTO: Moses Omusula/STANDARD]
By MOSES NJAGIH
KENYA: The International Criminal Court (ICC) must ensure that the trials of the Kenyan President and his deputy do not overlap, President Kenyatta warned on Sunday.
Speaking at a public rally on the eve of Deputy President William Ruto’s departure for The Hague, Kenyatta cautioned the ICC that he and his deputy could withdraw their cooperation with the court unless their trials are rescheduled and set at different times.
The Head of State said he and his deputy sought to continue cooperating with the court but it must not make it dif?cult for them to cooperate.
Ruto’s trial begins on Tuesday while the President is scheduled to go before judges on November 11. The trial schedule has the pair at The Hague between November 11 and December 13, meaning that both would be unavailable to lead Kenya’s 50th anniversary of independence.
He ruled out attending the ICC trials at the same time as his deputy, saying the ICC should not make it the mandate given to them by Kenyans. Ruto steered clear of the ICC debate, only urging Kenyans to continue praying for them as they face the challenge. He exuded confidence that they would triumph.
Said a tough-talking Kenyatta: “They (ICC) should not make it impossible for the sovereign nation of Kenya to be led as its citizens democratically chose. Let them not make it difficult for us to conduct our business.”
“We will work with the ICC but it must understand that Kenya has a constitution and Ruto and I won’t be away at the same time,” President Kenyatta told a public rally at Ruiru stadium, Kiambu.
Addressing a mammoth crowd that attended prayers for him and Ruto before the Deputy President leaves the country this morning for The Hague for the start of his trial, Kenyatta said their continued cooperation with the court would be hinged on how they fix their trial dates.
Mandate by Kenyans
It is the first time the ICC is trying a democratically elected sitting president. President Kenyatta said the Kenyan Constitution did not allow the two to be away at the same time.
He said the Hague based court must reschedule the trials to ensure that at any given time, either he or Ruto was in the country to exercise their constitutional mandate of leading the country.
Repeatedly stating that he was speaking in his capacity as the President given the mandate by Kenyans to lead the country, Kenyatta said the ICC must respect their new status, and importantly, the fact that the Constitution only allows the President or the Deputy to be away at any given time.
Kenyatta hinted that their cooperation with the court would depend on the rescheduling of their cases to ensure that they did not face trial concurrently.
“I am now not speaking as a suspect but as the President of the Republic of Kenya. We have agreed on working with the court and cooperating with it and this far we have done that,” said Kenyatta.
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“If they want us to cooperate, they must ensure that when Uhuru is there (at Hague) Ruto is in the country,” he said.
He said together with his Deputy, they would honour the duty to attend the court process, but also honour the constitutional mandate given to them by Kenyans to lead the country and urged the court to be considerate of this fact.
According to the schedule of the two cases, Kenyatta and Ruto would be at the Hague at one time together for almost a month, a schedule that Uhuru warned could distract the country’s leadership.
“I will take my responsibility to the case, but I will also not shun the responsibility given to me by Kenyans, I am speaking this now not as a suspect of the court but as the President of Kenya,” said Kenyatta amid applause from the leaders present who gave him a standing ovation as he addressed the issue.
He reiterated that there would be no vacuum in the country even as he and the Deputy face the trials over the 2007/2008 post-election violence.
“Some people are either sleep talking or speaking things they do not know and I want to tell them that if they think that they will capitalise on the moment that we will be in court to do whatever they want to do, they are wrong, there will be no vacuum,” he said.
He added: “Those who may have forgotten I will remind you that I was given a mandate by Kenyans and I am now the President, no matter where I am.” He exuded confidence that they will overcome the “hurdle” that was placed before them and bring to shame those who orchestrated the “evils” now facing them.
Ruiru Stadium was bursting with a sea of humanity that gave security personnel a hectic time to control as they surged forward. Many lined the streets from the main Thika highway to receive the two leaders who were accompanied by over 50 MPs, 10 Senators and eight Governors.
Kenyatta at the same time cautioned the CORD rivals against making political capital from the contentious VAT law, saying they were in government when the Bill was first introduced.
He, however, cautioned traders against taking advantage of hiking prices of goods that have not been factored for increased taxation saying the government would crack down on them and prosecute those found culpable.