Stop Messing With Kenya, AU Tells the ICC

Nairobi — The African Union (AU) has said that the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the United Nations (UN) Security Council must give the Kenyan presidency space to carry out its national obligations, in view of the charges that both President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto face at The Hague-based court.

AU Chairman Hailemariam Desalegn – who is the Ethiopian Prime Minister – said on Saturday that the two institutions must stop distracting the Kenyan leaders from their duties by forcing them to attend their trials at The Hague, instead of having them deferred.

Desalegn added that there was no excuse why these trials should not be brought closer home noting that the AU was particularly concerned with how the ICC has, for the past seven years, been ignoring requests from Africa.

He accused the Court of double standards explaining that requests for deferrals from non African nations, even in the most controversial situations, had been awarded.

"While similar requests by other countries were positively received even under very controversial circumstances, neither the ICC nor the UN Security Council have heeded the repeated requests from Africa over the last seven years," he said.

AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma added that the ICC must balance the need for reconciliation and the need for justice.

She explained that Kenyatta and Ruto held the Kenyan Republic together and it would be ill advised to jeopardise the country's unity by allowing it to slip to where it was in 2007.

"We should not allow Kenya to slide back for any reason and the AU is keen to see stability and an improved security situation in Kenya. This requires the undivided attention of its leadership," she said.

African States form the bulk of the nations that are party to the Rome Statute and none of the members of the UN Security Council are signatory to the ICC.

Desalegn said that the 34 African States that are party to the Rome Statute joined it because they believed that the Court was a just institution.

He however said that recent events had proved otherwise stressing the need for home-grown solutions.

"Our goal is not and should not be a crusade against the ICC, but a solemn call for the organisation to take Africa's concerns seriously," said Desalegn.

"I hope that we will be able to deliberate on how best we could move forward on these issues which have far reaching significance in our collective effort to promote peace and security in Africa."

The two-day extraordinary AU summit kicked off on Friday in Addis Ababa with discussions surrounding a mass African pull out from the ICC.

Kenyatta is already at the Ethiopian capital after leaving Nairobi on Saturday morning.

The Kenyan Head of State had also warned the ICC against making it 'difficult' for him and Ruto to manage the affairs of the country after a schedule from the ICC indicated that the two might have to be at The Hague at the same time.

The Constitution of Kenya prohibits the President and Deputy President from being absent from the country at the same time.

"Do not make it difficult for us to run the affairs of an independent sovereign nation called Kenya. I will take on my responsibilities and answer to the case but I will not also shirk my responsibilities that I have been given by the people of this Republic. And I say this not under the cover of darkness but in broad daylight," he said at a prayer service on September 8, 2013.

He has also written to the Court demanding for the halting of his trial because he no longer believes he will get a fair hearing.