Global Policy Forum

African Union Chief Backs Kenya's Bid to Try Election Violence Suspects

The African Union announced its support of Kenya's attempt to delay an ICC trial of six individuals suspected of instigating post-election violence in 2008, which resulted in some 1,200 deaths and over 300,000 refugees. The African Union and Kenya argue that the six, which include Kenyan Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, should instead be tried domestically. The chief prosecutor of the ICC Luis Moreno-Ocampo requested last December that charges nevertheless be filed against the six at the ICC, precisely because Kenya has failed to try them in local courts.

By William Davison and Mike Cohen

January 29, 2011

The African Union's top official backed a push by Kenya to try six people suspected of instigating post-election violence in a domestic court, saying the International Criminal Court's pursuit of the case is undermining African support for the tribunal.

Almost three years after a disputed presidential election triggered ethnic violence that killed 1,500 people in the East African nation, no one has been convicted for orchestrating the crimes. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor at the Hague-based ICC, requested on Dec. 15 that charges of crimes against humanity be filed against Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and five other Kenyans over their alleged role in the attacks.

The case should first be tried at the lowest possible level, and Moreno-Ocampo's announcement pre-judged its outcome, AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping told reporters today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital. The AU includes 53 African nations.

"For Kenyans these people have already been found guilty," Ping said. "They should be guilty after they have been found guilty. We Africans and the African Union, we are not against ICC. We are against the way Moreno-Ocampo is running justice, the justice of one man."

The ICC would consider any request from Kenya to stage the trial, the tribunal's oversight body said yesterday. The ICC would stay involved, monitoring the local tribunal, Christian Wenaweser, president of the Assembly of State Parties, said in Kenya's capital, Nairobi. The assembly consists of 114 countries that ratified the Rome Statute that established the ICC.

Local Courts

"The job of the court is not to process as many people as possible," Wenaweser said. "The job of the court is to not let people get away with murder so to speak."

Kenya aims to create a local mechanism to try the suspects that will enable it to use the ICC statutes to request a transfer of the cases to the local courts, President Mwai Kibaki said in an e-mailed statement today after meeting Wenaweser.

Moreno-Ocampo requested that charges of crimes against humanity be filed against Kenyatta, who is also deputy prime minister, former Higher Education Minister William Ruto, Henry Kosgey, who resigned on Jan. 4 as Industrialization Minister, Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura, former police chief Mohammed Hussein Ali and Joshua Arap Sang, a radio presenter. All six men have denied the ICC's accusations.

The charges stem from fighting that broke out after then- opposition leader Raila Odinga disputed the results of a December 2007 presidential election that gave victory to Kibaki.

The fighting stopped when Kibaki signed a power-sharing accord with Odinga, who was named prime minister. Kenyan lawmakers have blocked two pieces of legislation that were supposed to create a local tribunal to try alleged instigators of the clashes. That prompted Moreno-Ocampo to open an investigation.

Moreno-Ocampo applied "double standards" in his dealings with Kenya, Ping said.

"Kenya has been one of the big supporters of the ICC," he said. "Then they have seen Moreno-Ocampo on TV saying we will make Kenya as an example in the world. Why not Argentina, Myanmar, Iraq? Why not Gaza?"


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