President Uhuru leads African Union onslaught against ICC

President Uhuru Kenyatta makes his remarks at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa. (Photo: PSCU)

President Uhuru Kenyatta Sunday led African leaders in passing a resolution that could result in African countries withdrawing from the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In the latest assault on the court, and just weeks after the no-case-to-answer motion submissions by Deputy President William Ruto and his co-accused Joshua arap Sang, the African Union (AU) during a meeting held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, adopted a decision to develop a strategy for the mass withdrawal of African countries from the global institution.

The President, in hard-hitting statement before the adoption of the resolution, also asked the AU to apply pressure on the ICC to terminate the case against Ruto and Sang, terming the Rome statute "a dysfunctional instrument".

"In the face of a mutating global terrorist threat that is costing us lives and great economic loss, in the midst of playing our part in mediating multiple peace processes in our region, we have to contend with an ICC pursuing weak and politicised cases. This has become a huge distraction from our duty to serve our people and this continent fully," said the President.

"This is not what Kenya signed up for when we joined the ICC. I highly doubt that those of you that are its members expected this to be the way the court would conduct itself," said President Kenyatta, before calling for continued pressure for the termination of the current cases.

"I therefore urge you to adopt the resolutions of the ministerial committee on the ICC and include a new mandate to develop a road map for withdrawal from the Rome Statute, as necessary. We must reaffirm that the global standard for the immunity for heads of state should also apply to Africa, and insist on the termination of the collapsed case against the (Kenyan) deputy president," he said.

Kenya's move Sunday drew mixed reactions from Kenyans with Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen saying that the move represents the wish of Kenyans.

"Both the National Assembly and Senate recommended a walkout some time back. So the voice of the people was already heard and AU has done what Kenyans wanted," he said.

But Opposition leaders disagreed with the decision taken by the African leaders. Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua stated: "There is nothing like mass withdrawal from ICC. Each country joined individually and cannot withdraw enmasse. Every country will go back and begin the long process. Other countries can even change their minds."

Senator James Orengo added: "This marks the beginning of a problem. Francophone countries cannot withdraw if France remains opposed."

Executive Director of International Commission of Jurists (Kenya) George Kegoro said despite the resolution, the move may not be easy to effect.

He said that a good number of African countries are keen to see the continuation of the ICC especially those that have referred cases to the Hague court for resolution.

"The threat by African countries to withdraw from the ICC began in 2010 and it has not happened until now because different African countries have different interests. Even Kenya threatened to withdraw in 2014, but has not done so yet," he said.

At the same the National Civil Society Congress (NCSC) has reacted angrily over the AU move, saying it comes at a time when the same body has failed to stop mass killings in Burundi.

NCSC's President Morris Odhiambo said that leaving the ICC should not be a priority at this time, and termed the bid a selfish move by leaders to protect themselves from accountability.

Chris Gitari, a human rights lawyer with the International Centre for Transitional Justice in Nairobi, said the move was "very disappointing" and another attempt by African leaders to escape accountability and justice.