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African leaders split on bid to defer Hague trials

Thursday January 27 2011

A general view of a past session of the African Union Summit of Heads of States in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. Kenya has been lobbying for African countries to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Photo/FILE

A general view of a past session of the African Union Summit of Heads of States in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. Kenya has been lobbying for African countries to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Photo/FILE 

By NATION TEAM [email protected]

Kenya’s shuttle diplomacy to persuade African Union members to support its bid to postpone a case against the Ocampo Six has received mixed responses.

President Rupiah Banda of Zambia said they were still consulting over Kenya’s lobbying for African countries to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

President Banda, without elaborating, said they received a delegation from Kenya about three weeks ago and explained their position.

“I have not fully consulted with my colleagues over that issue. I am sure that these issues will be discussed also at the AU summit this weekend,” President Banda said.

However, Kenya’s bid was warmly received in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government said Nairobi should see its own solutions outside the ICC.

“Our position is Africans should solve their problems on their own,” said Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Dina Mufti.

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In Harare, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is inclined to support the Kenyan position despite likely opposition from his partners in the coalition government who have already issued statements hailing the ICC for acting against the post-election chaos suspects.

In Gaborone, Botswana, reports said President Ian Khama was not likely to support the Kenyan course.

“We are full members of the ICC. We intend to keep it (membership) until we feel there is something wrong with it. At the moment we have no qualms with it,” Botswana Foreign minister Phandu Skelemani said.

Rwanda is likely to support the move since President Paul Kagame has gone on record several times on the way he felt about ICC.

In Arusha, Tanzania, the East African Law Society condemned “in the strongest terms possible” the move to pull Kenya out of the ICC.

“The resolution aims at defeating the course of justice,” read a statement issued in Arusha and signed by the society president Joseph Kapinga.

In the US, a New York-based Coalition for the ICC said The Hague was not singling out Africans for prosecutions.

Mr William Pace, the ICC support group convener, said “it does have the unfortunate impact of enabling it to be portrayed as focused only on Africa”.

Reports by Elias Mbao, Argaw Ashine, Kitsepile Nyathi, Kevin J Kelley, Zephania Ubwani and Kezio Musoke David