African presidents on Sunday supported a petition calling on the International Criminal Court to drop crimes against humanity charges facing President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.
The leaders want the trials sent back to the national courts.
However, an international human rights NGO was on Sunday pushing back, asking the African leaders to reject what they saw as an attempt to shield Kenyan leaders from justice. The motion for the petition was brought by Uganda and was said to have the support of 53 presidents.
Only the President of Botswana opposed it, arguing that the ICC should be allowed to handle the case in accordance with its mandate.
President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto are charged at the ICC in connection with the 2007 post-election violence in which more than 1,000 died and 600,000 others displaced.
African leaders are attending the 21st ordinary session of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which also marks 50 years of the Organisation of African Unity, later renamed the African Union.
At the time of going to press, the presidents had not issued a formal communiqué which, together with the details of the vote and resolution, is expected on Monday.
Speaking in Addis Ababa, the President of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, Ms Sophia Akuffo, said there are ongoing processes to expand the jurisdiction of the court to include certain types of international crimes.
She said the court does not have the instruments to handle such cases.
“Kenya has not applied for the transfer and even if it does, there are absolutely no procedures in place on how to make that possible currently,” she said.
The African Union membership roster contains 54 states.
Amnesty International opposed the Ugandan petition and asked the AU to throw out the resolution calling for the ICC cases to be referred for trial in Kenya.
“The African Union must reject Kenya’s attempts to shield its leaders from being held to account for the human rights violations that took place in Kenya in 2007-2008,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director, in a press statement.
Earlier, Uganda’s Foreign Minister Sam Kuteesa, who pushed the motion to have the resolution adopted by the Heads of State, pushed for an end to the cases.
“We are asking the ICC to stop the prosecution... if not, then they should re-investigate the cases because there are a lot of falsehoods that led to the prosecution of these individuals.”
The AU might also want an assurance that President Kenyatta will not be humiliated when he goes to The Hague for the opening of his trial scheduled for July 9, a matter which is said to have raised concern among Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) member states.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni is said to have told Heads of State from East and Horn of Africa meeting under the umbrella of Igad on Friday night that the ICC was not sincere on the Kenyan case.
“ICC should tell us if they plan to detain [Mr] Kenyatta. They should give us an explanation if he is going to come back to Kenya because the information we are receiving is different,” Mr Museveni was quoted as saying.
During the talks, Zambian President Michael Sata told Kenyans to deal with their problems locally.
“Where was the Hague when Africa was fighting for independence? If you find a Kenyan or Zambian President at fault, let the Kenyan or Zambian people deal with him, not the Hague,” he said.