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Published 18th October 2013

Vol 54 No 21


Kenya

Kenyatta mulls nuclear option

Uhuru Kenyatta speaks to supporters during a 2013 general elections rally. Sven Torfin / Panos
Uhuru Kenyatta speaks to supporters during a 2013 general elections rally. Sven Torfin / Panos

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

Unless he gets a backroom deal to defer his case, the Kenyan leader is preparing to end cooperation with the International Criminal Court

The chances of President Uhuru Kenyatta appearing in the Hague to stand trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court are decreasing by the day. Astute lobbying by his government and its use of the Westgate terrorist attack to bolster its case, along with widespread acceptance of his mandate after national elections in March, have emboldened Kenyatta and his associates. The diplomatic ground has been carefully laid for Kenyatta to announce that he cannot go to the Netherlands on 12 November. Yet his deputy, William Ruto, who is currently on trial at the ICC, could lose out in any back-room deal that helps his boss.

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BLUE LINES
THE INSIDE VIEW

It was a bad week for the credibility of African governments. An African Union summit on 11-12 October backed a demand for immunity from prosecution – even for crimes against humanity – for incumbent African leaders (see Feature). It also called for the deferral of the International Criminal Court's cases against Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta and Sudan's Omer el Beshir. Then on 14 October, Sudanese telecoms pioneer Mohamed Ibrahim announced his Foundation would again not be awarding its prize for ac...

It was a bad week for the credibility of African governments. An African Union summit on 11-12 October backed a demand for immunity from prosecution – even for crimes against humanity – for incumbent African leaders (see Feature). It also called for the deferral of the International Criminal Court's cases against Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta and Sudan's Omer el Beshir. Then on 14 October, Sudanese telecoms pioneer Mohamed Ibrahim announced his Foundation would again not be awarding its prize for achievement in African leadership.

The two developments are curiously linked. The obvious candidate for Mo Ibrahim's prize was Kenya's Mwai Kibaki, a brilliant economist who presided over historically important constitutional reform. He won two presidential elections, then retired without demur after a lifetime in the engine room of government. Yet Kibaki's re-election in 2007 made considering him unthinkable. In violence after the disputed results, over 1,200 people were killed and 300,000 chased from their homes.

Not one politician, activist or security officer has been prosecuted in Kenya for the violence. Kibaki signed a deal with his rival, Raila Odinga, agreeing to a thorough investigation into the causes and the perpetrators of the killings. He also agreed that, should the local courts be assessed as incapable of trying those high-profile figures deemed most responsible, then the mediator, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, would send the cases to the ICC. Those named included Kibaki's deputy, Kenyatta, and Odinga's deputy, William Ruto. And as Kenyatta and Ruto try to unpick the agreement brokered by Annan, the silence from Kibaki is deafening.

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