Thursday, April 11, 2013

A New Battlefront for the ICC? Presidents Kenyatta and Museveni Speak

After a long break from blogging, I am back.

It is fitting that I return with a post to kick of a discussion about the future of the ICC cases in Kenya, following the election and inauguration of Hon Uhuru Kenyatta and Hon William Ruto. As the region and the world re-adjusts to the election of Hon Uhuru Kenyatta as Kenya's 4th President, many are speculating what will happen now, given that President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto are facing trial at the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity linked to the 2007-2008 post election violence. Their trials begin on 9th July and 28 May respectively.

In his inauguration speech on 9 April 2013, President Kenyatta does not mention the ICC specifically but leaves no doubt that his sharp and unambiguous remarks on Kenya's international obligations and treaties address the ICC question. There are nuggets there that point to how his government is likely deal with and engage with the ICC issue. While affirming that his government will abide by Kenya's international obligations, he states that he expects that relations will be conducted on the basis of mutual respect and reciprocity. Here are his relevant remarks:

To the Nations of Africa and The African Union – we assure you that in Kenya, you will continue to have a partner and an ally. If we stand together in solidarity I am confident that we will find the strength to thrive and innovate solutions that work for us. Of course, we join you in continuing to insist on relating with all nations as equals - not juniors. As partners, not subordinates. In our history as nations, we have seen some of the most ardent promoters of ideals of national sovereignty and democracy sometimes fail to live by the principles they espouse, but let us remember that their failure does not justify ours.

To the nations of the world – we acknowledge that in this age of globalization, all of us are interdependent. Our economies are interconnected as indeed are our people. I pledge to continue cultivating the relationships we have had with our traditional partners and I say to all developing and developed nations who desire a deeper and more mutually beneficial relationship with Kenya: we are ready for partnerships, we are open for business and we invite you to invest in our country. I also want to remind the International Community that for the last fifty years, Kenya has been one of the most engaged members and one of the most prolific co-authors of international treaties and instruments. I assure you again that under my leadership, Kenya will strive to uphold our international obligations, so long as these are founded on the well-established principles of mutual respect and reciprocity.

Central to our continued contribution to the international community, will be the understanding that the world is made up of many countries, cultures, political experiences and world-views. We must remember that no one country or group of countries should have control or monopoly on international institutions or the interpretation of international treaties. While each state has a right to its own view, it must respect the fact that it holds just one view amongst many in the community of nations.

On the ICC, it is President Museveni of Uganda, speaking on behalf of invited regional leaders, who stole the show with controversial comments. In his remarks, which he says are his personal views (rather than those of regional bodies he represented), he expresses his disappointment in the ICC. He thanks Kenyan voters 'rejecting the blackmail of the ICC and those who seek to abuse this institution for their own agenda', noting that while he supported ICC at the start, he no longer does, partly because, he contends, it has become a foreign policy tool of some nations who use it to impose their will on others.

Here are his remarks:

This is my own opinion now. Before I was speaking on behalf of the people of East Africa, the COMESA regional trade group and ICGLR...this is my opinion. Furthermore, I want to salute the Kenyan voters on one other issue – the rejection of the blackmail by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and those who seek to abuse this institution for their own agenda. I was one of those that supported the ICC because I abhor impunity. However, the usual opinionated and arrogant actors using their careless analysis have distorted the purpose of that institution. They are now using it to install leaders of their choice in Africa and eliminate the ones they do not like. What happened here in 2007 was regrettable and must be condemned. A legalistic process, especially an external one, however, cannot address those events. Events of this nature first and most importantly, need an ideological solution by discerning why they happened. Why did inter community violence occur? Was it for genuine or false reasons? Even if you assume they were genuine reasons as a hypothetical argument, why should villagers attack one another? Would the villagers have been responsible for whatever mistakes that would have occurred? Instead of a thorough and thoughtful process, we have individuals engaged in legal gymnastics!

In Uganda’s case, between 1966 and 1986, we lost about 800,000 persons killed by the leaders who were in charge of the country. How did we handle that sad history? Have you ever heard us asking ICC or the UN to come and help us deal with that sad chapter of our history? We only referred Joseph Kony of LRA to ICC because he was operating outside Uganda. Otherwise, we would have handled him ourselves. Equally, Kenyan actors are the ones best qualified to sit and delve into their history in order to discover the ideological stimuli the Kenyan society needs. I, therefore, use this opportunity to salute the Kenyan voters again, rejecting that blackmail and upholding the sovereignty of the Kenyan people. The people of Kenya extended hospitality to Ugandans when they had to run out of their country because of criminal rule in Uganda. I thank the people of Kenya and their leaders for this.

What do you think?


  1. I must reflect. My preliminary and very simplistic comments though: I hate impunity with a passion; more so when it has to do with the commission of such grave and heinous crimes as crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. However, I have at the same time been less than happy with the ICC's seemingly "target Africa" policy. Surely there must be some indictable suspects outside Africa thus far, no? But then we are yet to see the direction in which Madam Bensouda will take the Court's prosecution's policy, although she has been issuing status quo statements thus far. Still, perhaps there is still a glimmer of hope that she will be more even handed!

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