The President has nothing to gain by ignoring the ICC status conference

Monday September 22 2014

President Uhuru Kenyatta (C) with Deputy President William Ruto (R) and Majority Leader Aden Duale. Six Jubilee legislators Sunday accused the Opposition of disrespecting President Kenyatta.PHOTO | PSCU | FILE

President Uhuru Kenyatta (C) with Deputy President William Ruto (R) and Majority Leader Aden Duale. Six Jubilee legislators Sunday accused the Opposition of disrespecting President Kenyatta.PHOTO | PSCU | FILE PSCU

Considerable debate has been ignited over whether President Uhuru Kenyatta should honour summons to a status conference of the International Criminal Court bench trying him for crimes against humanity.

Already, Jubilee coalition politicians, activists and commentators have started a loud campaign against the President’s appearance.

The basic arguments from the orchestrated responses is that requiring personal attendance is meant to embarrass the President; that Kenya is a sovereign State and should not have its president paraded before a foreign court; that there must be something sinister in summoning the President; that the case was unjust in the first place and should never have been launched; and that the prosecution case is on the verge of collapse anyway, so the judges should be throwing it out rather than asking the President to appear.

In other words, nothing new is being offered save for the same old hackneyed arguments from those who seem to think their favourite political leaders are above the law and should be immune from prosecution even for the most grievous offences known in law.

STERILE NOISE

Already, Jubilee MPs are planning a meeting to deliberate on whether President Kenyatta should travel to The Hague.

Besides providing an opportunity for MPs to make sterile noise, thump their chests with fake nationalist outrage and compete for attention with the most outrageous displays of sycophancy, there is no need for a meeting whose outcome is clear in advance.

It will just be yet a repetition of the same old histrionics ending up with the conclusion that Uhuru should defy the ICC.

What strikes me is that all those mouthpieces making the most noise have absolutely no mandate or personal stake.

Those with a stake are the three accused, President Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto and former radio presenter Joshua arap Sang, who are wisely avoiding puerile displays.

The likes of National Assembly and Senate Majority Leaders Aden Duale and Kithure Kindiki and their band of legislators, together with the usual retinue of soapbox political activists and social media warriors, can foam at the mouth with righteous indignation, but the fact is that nothing they do will sway the judicial process.

EXTRAORDINARY LEEWAY

President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto long ago decided to cooperate with the court despite holding high office. The latter has faithfully attended hearings when required, and even now is cautioning that there is no need to panic over the latest developments.

The accused, in any case, are fully aware that it is they who will be held individually liable if they choose to defy the court.

Already, in recognition of their status, they have been given extraordinary leeway by the court on matters of personal attendance.
They are being tried as free men rather than as remand prisoners, and are required to be personally present in court only on limited occasions.

If they started defying the court at this late stage when both the cases against them seem in danger of collapse, it would only be to their own detriment.

Any arrest warrants issued will not be against Mr Duale, Prof Kindiki, President Kenyatta’s MP Moses Kuria, official State blogger Dennis Itumbi or Ugandan activist David Matsanga.

IGNORE THE NOISEMAKERS

Nor will any warrants be issued against the collective African Union leadership that has banded together in solidarity with a colleague facing the kind of charges they all live in dread of.

President Kenyatta must do the wise thing and ignore all those noisemakers who pretend they are fighting in his corner, but who would actually be driving him down the path of self-destruction.

If those cases were doomed from the start, they must be allowed to wind up to the logical conclusions.

I opined on this page many moons ago that the time would come when President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto would have to profusely thank the ICC, and particularly former prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and his successor Fatou Bensouda, for delivering State House to them on a silver platter.

Perhaps the status conference on the Kenyatta case might present just such an opportunity if it leads to the conclusion that the case is dead before it starts.

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