Former PM Raila Odinga to lead urgent CORD talks on International Criminal Court
By Alex Ndegwa and Geoffrey Mosoku
Former PM and CORD co-principal Raila Odinga. The coalition will be meeting Tuesday to adopt a common stand on the ICC cases. [Photo: File/Standard]
Former Prime Minister and Coalition for Reforms and Democracy co-principal Raila Odinga will Tuesday lead emergency talks involving opposition MPs over the ICC dilemma facing President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The special sitting of the CORD leaders comes two weeks before President Uhuru Kenyatta’s scheduled appearance at The Hague-based court for his trial.
Discussions at the joint meeting of the National Executive Council, the coalition’s decision-making organ, and Parliamentary Group will centre on the latest bi-partisan push by MPs to support the government’s quest to have the Kenyan ICC cases deferred.
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Kenya, through an African Union-backed petition, has asked the UN Security Council to suspend the legal proceedings against Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto, citing threats to regional peace and security.
No common stand so far
Kenya lobbied its case at consultative meetings to rally the UNSC to support the petition, which gained urgency after ICC judges last Friday ruled Ruto must attend all his trial sessions and the prosecution indicated it will press for a similar requirement for Uhuru who is excused from continuous attendance. Uhuru’s trial starts November 12.
Raila confirmed that the CORD meeting scheduled for Nairobi will deliberate on the latest efforts by a section of MPs from various parties to seek a common position over the issue that has divided the opposition and ruling Jubilee alliance.
Speaking at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Saturday night on arrival from a weeklong tour of the US, Raila said Tuesday’s meeting will discuss the proposal and come up with a common position.
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“We cannot give you our position now. We have called for a special session of the PG and NEC on Tuesday. It’s after the meeting that we shall state our position on the matter,” said Raila, when asked about the coalition’s views on ongoing talks.
Last week The Standard reported MPs from both coalitions were working on a bi-partisan plan to shore up Kenya’s bid to have the ICC cases against Uhuru and Ruto suspended.
At least 25 MPs initiated the talks “to provide a bi-partisan backing” for the government’s petition to the UNSC for deferral of the cases for one- year. The MPs are pressing for an Inter-Party Parliamentary Group (IPPG) forum to broker a deal on the ICC cases. Citing the AU-backed petition to the UNSC, the MPs say it would be critical for Parliament to provide bi-partisan backing for this process.
“A bi-partisan motion in this regard would send a strong message to the UNSC that this is a national matter that enjoys broad domestic support,” the document reads, citing the council acknowledged the Westgate terror attack constituted a threat to international peace and security.
Justice for victims
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But the parliamentary initiative, according to a working document seen by The Standard, acknowledges deferral only “postpones the problem” and is exploring a “sustainable solution”.
That includes establishing a domestic justice mechanism to petition the ICC to refer the cases, compensation of victims and a truth commission on the 2007 post-election violence.
The team led by ODM’s Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka, claims its motivation is “finding a Kenyan-driven solution to the ICC cases, anchored on ensuring justice for the victims, fostering national reconciliation while preserving Kenya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
It is seen as an attempt to forge a bi-partisan resolution to bolster Kenya’s petition to the UNSC, after the acrimonious fallout following the Jubilee-backed resolution to end the country’s membership of the ICC.
CORD MPs walked out of National Assembly to protest the resolution that was later also endorsed by the Senate.
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Instructively, the new parliamentary initiative urges government not to sever ties with ICC but press for reforms of the court at a meeting of State parties scheduled on November 20 to 28.
Reports indicate ICC will present a new investigations strategy to respond to weaknesses in evidence-gathering, among them collection of evidence by intermediaries.
The AU has demanded that the UNSC takes a decision before November 12, when Uhuru’s trial is due to start in The Hague. Ruto’s trial started last month and is due to take a break on November 1.
Misconduct by prosecution
In the petition pressing for the deferral of the Uhuru and Ruto cases, AU argues the trials “will distract and prevent them from fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities, including oversight of national and regional security affairs.”
Last Friday, Uhuru’s lawyers applied to have his trial postponed to a date after February 12 next year, to allow investigations into allegations of misconduct by the prosecution and for the president to address “essential duties of presidency arising from the terrorist attack in Nairobi Westgate shopping mall.”
“At this current time, the commencement of the trial on 12 November when Uhuru is required in Kenya for key meetings, consultations and decision-making tasks, is not in the interests of either the citizens of Kenya or the international community,” read the application by the president’s lawyers Steven Kay and Gillian Higgins.
An earlier application sought the stoppage of his trial.
UN Security Council Raila Odinga Uhuru Kenyatta International Criminal Court