Assembly of State Parties president visits Kenya ahead of key decision on ICC case

President Uhuru Kenyatta with the president of the Assembly of States Parties, Sidiki Kaba, who paid him a courtesy call at State House, Nairobi, on Wednesday. [PHOTO:PSCU]

Kenya is once again in the spotlight as it awaits an important decision by the Assembly of State Parties (ASP) on non-cooperation in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s collapsed case at the International Criminal Court.

On Wednesday this week, the appeals chamber of the court will make a decision on whether to refer Kenya to the ASP for non-cooperation in the case.

Last Wednesday, newly-elected President of the Assembly of State Parties, the political arm of the court, Sidiki Kaba, arrived at State House, Nairobi, for a courtesy call on President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Uhuru is reported by the Presidential Strategic Communication Unit (PSCU) as having obtained assurances from Kaba that Kenya’s complaints against The Hague-based court would be addressed by the ASP.

“He assured President Kenyatta that Kenya’s and Africa’s issues will be accorded the attention they deserve during his tenure as the ASP president,” a PSCU report of the meeting said.

Restore confidence

The meeting, the first of its kind, was not publicised prior. Kaba arrived in Nairobi on Tuesday and held unpublicised talks with Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed and Attorney General Githu Muigai before meeting the President the following morning.

He left the country immediately after this and PSCU sent a statement announcing his visit. When The Standard on Sunday called the Senegalese embassy in Nairobi to book an interview, we were informed Kaba had already left in the morning.

A press statement posted on the ICC website after Kaba left Kenya says the meeting with the AG and the CS centred on “various issues regarding the relationship between Kenya and the Assembly of States Parties”.

The statement says during the State House visit, Kaba presented his work programme and reiterated the importance of the restoration of the confidence between Africa and the court, cooperating with the court and universality of the Rome Statute.

“I welcome the open and frank discussions that we have had. In light of the importance of the ICC in the prevention and repression of mass crimes, I reiterate my commitment to work with all States Parties to create better conditions for dialogue within the Assembly,” the statement said.

But the PSCU statement and President Kenyatta’s own posts on social media bared it all. In a Facebook post after the meeting, Kenyatta asserted the Government of Kenya’s position that it had fully cooperated with the court in the two cases before it.

He reiterated Africa’s complaints, championed by Kenya, about its apprehensions with the courts workings and operations.

“I appealed to the court not to focus on justifying its existence at the expense of its core mandate of delivering international justice and ensuring peace and reconciliation. The objective of the court must be to bring people together and ensure justice is served but not to cause more problems,” the President said.

The PSCU report said Kaba told President Kenyatta that Africa provides the most important team to the ASP and its concerns must be heard and addressed.

Africa has the largest single bloc at the ASP with 34 signatories. It is followed by the Latin America and Caribbean bloc with 27 and Western Europe with 25.

Kaba’s trip reflected a growing pattern of ‘quiet’ trips among ICC top officials. Earlier in the year, head of Trust Fund for Victims Pieter de Baan arrived in the country unannounced and left unannounced.

The last time an ASP President visited Kenya was in January 2011. The visit was highly publicised with a series of meetings held with former President Mwai Kibaki, Cabinet sub-committee on ICC, members of the diplomatic community and civil society leaders.

Yesterday, activist Njonjo Mue opined that Kaba’s visit may have been informed by the urgent need for ASP to mend fences with African governments. He also said Kaba had met civil society groups in New York and Dakar earlier in the year.

“That would be my intelligent guess. The priority for now would be to reach out to African governments who have been having grievances against the court. Besides, I would hazard again, his visit must have depended on a Kenyan state invitation,” Mue said.

Mue said Kaba’s meeting with the President a week before the ICC appeals chamber decision has no bearing on Wednesday’s outcome or the actions of the ASP should the matter end up there. “The ASP is not a judicial body. Wednesday’s decision will be made based on the law and the circumstances in the case,” he said.