Kenya has secured the support of the African Union Commission and Ethiopia in its bid to have the International Criminal Court defer the case against six Kenyans at the International Criminal Court and have them tried locally.
AU Commission chair Jean Ping endorsed Kenya’s request, saying it is within the realm of the rights of all ICC member states.
Kenya’s Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka has been on a tour of African states that the government wants to back the country’s request.
Mr Ping said it was right for Kenya to begin its request for a deferral at the AU even though the request is intended for the UN Security Council.
He noted that the ICC cases were as a result of an AU-appointed and mediated process. “The AU Commission will therefore support the request,” said Mr Ping.
Kenya’s request will also be discussed on the sidelines of next week’s AU summit in Addis Ababa. Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has agreed to convene a meeting of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) on the sidelines of the summit.
Mr Zenawi is the current chairman of Igad and the meeting will be held to take a common position on Kenya’s request for a deferral of the ICC cases facing post-election violence suspects.
The resolution from Igad meeting will then be presented to the Summit. Mr Ping and Mr Zenawi were speaking separately in Addis Ababa, when they held talks with Mr Musyoka.
The Vice-President briefed the two leaders on Kenya’s commitment to remain a member of the ICC in good standing, but carry out prosecutions on post-election violence suspects through special local mechanisms as a way of rallying Kenyans to have faith in the country’s local institutions under the new constitutional dispensation.
“Let no one interpret our move to mean that we are running away from justice for the victims and condoning impunity. What we want to do is to make it clear to our international friends that we are now capable of handling our internal problems,” Mr Musyoka said.
The VP also briefed key Western, African and UN diplomats accredited to the AU in Addis Ababa. These include those from the US, Canada, UK, Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, Uganda and Ghana.
The VP was accompanied in the trip by MPs Mohamed Affey and Philip Kaloki.
Mr Zenawi, on his part, lauded Kenya as an important neighbour, saying the two had maintained excellent relations ever since Kenya attained independence in the 60s.
“We will not hesitate therefore to support a position presented by Kenya, not only because we must always come to the aid of our neighbour, but also because we believe that the course the country has taken would be the best under the circumstances,” he said.
The Prime Minister regretted the occurrence of post-election violence terming it as a blot in Kenya’s long-running history of stability in the region.
Kenya’s request for the deferral has so far received indications of a positive support from several African countries including Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and the AU.
Mr Kalonzo is one of three ministers who have been on a mission to get the support of African countries to support Kenya’s request.
The others are Trade minister Chirau Mwakwere and Nairobi Metropolitan Development minister Njeru Githae. On Tuesday, Mr Mwakwere met Zambian President Rupiah Banda and was scheduled to move on to Botswana, Zimbabwe and Lesotho. Mr Githae has visited Burundi, Djibouti and Tanzania on a similar mission.
Last week, Mr Musyoka held talks with South African President Jacob Zuma, who also sits at the UN Security Council, and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
The move has threatened to become yet another divisive matter for the coalition government, with the ODM side saying it was not party to the idea and it had not been discussed at Cabinet level.
ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in December applied to judges at The Hague seeking to indict Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Uhuru Kenyatta, head of civil service Francis Muthaura, suspended Higher Education minister William Ruto, suspended Industrialisation minister and ODM chairman Henry Kosgey, former Police Commissioner Hussein Ali and radio presenter Julius arap Sang.