BY RUTH MUMBI
Recently, Kenyans have been consumed yet again in a new national debate on whether President Uhuru Kenyatta should or shouldnâ€™t attend the court sessions at The Hague based International Criminal Court where he is accused of committing crimes against humanity.
A section of the government while lobbying for this defiance argued on the basis that it was in the best interest of Mr. Kenyatta and Kenya as a whole to get a way by whatever means to either stop the case against Kenyatta or use any means possible to ensure the President doesnâ€™t attend the court proceedings in person when they commence in November.
In the name of fighting for the withdrawal of the criminal charges facing President Uhuru, some representatives of the Kenyan Government have initiated some kind of renewed diplomacy to lobby other countries especially in Africa to go as far as boycotting and moving out of the Rome Statute en masse, alleging the ICC is another tool for Europeâ€™s second colonization of Africa!
Just before the recently concluded 2013 special African Union summit held in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, there was widespread belief that all African International Criminal Court member countries were going to support mass exit from the Rome Statue. That didnâ€™t happen. Nonetheless, Kenya along with Uganda pushed the AU for a summit to discuss the continentâ€™s relations with the ICC, with African officials initially saying that an en masse withdrawal of African countries from the ICC would be on the agenda.
However, the proposal appeared to garner little support aside from Kenya, Sudan, Rwanda and Ethiopia. The last three are not signatories to the court. This argument is what led the African Union to develop a position that came close to non cooperation with the court by the AU and its member countries.
The intention of non cooperation by the African union is evident but going by the declarations that were made by the chairperson of the union at the end of the summit in Addis Ababa stating that no sitting African President should be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC), it means the Union decided to lower its extreme position of mass withdrawal something that should worry president Kenyatta on whether the AU will stand by him under whatever circumstances.
Though hypocritical and pretentious, this implies that the African states and their respective leaderships are awake to the fact that itâ€™s neither in their best interest as countries nor as heads of states to withdraw.
So many views have been expressed by both national and international interest groups on this matter some raising concerns that Kenya might become abandoned by the international community and even the African Union itself if Kenyatta fails to honour his date with the ICC. So far the Amnesty International has condemned the threats and declarations by the AU.
The recent historical political developments in Africa should inform Uhuru to make the right decision in the best interest of the nation and his own self. It will be suicidal to boycott the ICC. The risk of international sanctions and the political instability that may occur as a result might cause this country to face serious economic hardships that Kenya being a third world might find hard to sustain as a country. The suffering of the masses might lead to economic collapse of the country thus production and productiveness of the citizens very low. This will not be in the best interest of even Uhuru himself.
Uhuru should not rely on any advice of any member country or any state in Africa to make a decision of cooperating or not cooperating with the ICC. It cant be forgotten that most of those who are very vocal in withdrawing African Countries from ICC were very vocal in proclaiming their solidarity with the former Libyan leader Col.Muammar Gaddafi who even went to an extend of using his personal fortunes to help a number of African states.
When NATO came to Libya, no African state stood by Gaddafi. Jacob Zuma, who was expected to support Gaddafi, led South Africa in supporting the enforcement of a no fly zone on Libya by the United Nations Security Council, only to later express regret like he never knew the real meaning of a â€˜no fly zoneâ€™. The regret came too late since Gaddafi had already been captured and summarily executed without even being given an opportunity to defend himself before a reputable court of law. The African Union made a few rants here and there and forgot about Gaddafi.
Itâ€™s encouraging that so far the court has had full cooperation from the President, his deputy William Ruto, former radio journalist Mr. Joshua arap sang and even those who have so far been acquitted .It will be unnecessary to start antagonizing the ICC now. Itâ€™s important for president Uhuru to continue going to court unconditionally, just as he had promised during the Presidential campaigns. Majority of his voters trusted him when he promised to cooperate with the court and deal with the case as a personal challenge.
He should not subject the country to a lot of suffering because of his â€˜personal challengeâ€™. If innocent as he has believably always claimed, he will be acquitted and continue working to help the country achieve the developmental goals as envisioned in the jubilee manifesto.
Failure to cooperate with International Criminal Court effectively affects the Kenyan cases at The Hague, jeopardizes the international goodwill we have enjoyed as a country by the cooperation so far we have had with the court and effectively piles His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta in the same category with fugitive Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al Bashir whom the ICC has already issued a warrant of arrest against.
Ruth Mumbi is a finalist for the 2013 Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk.