Kenya says the International Criminal Court’s case against its two highest elected officials risked destabilising the entire east African region at a meeting of the court’s member states on Thursday.
At a debate to discuss the crisis resulting from the court’s cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, the Kenyan attorney-general said the court and its member states were playing “Russian roulette” with the country.
“Our country is the linchpin in the peace and security involving more than 250 million people from Djibouti to Eastern Congo and everybody in between,” Githu Muigai told a special debate called at the request of the African Union.
He said Kenya – an ally of the West in the fight against militant Islam in neighbouring Somalia – was a “pillar of security” in Eastern Africa, to loud applause from many African delegates at the conference.
Kenyatta and Ruto face separate charges of crimes against humanity for their alleged role in stoking ethnic violence in the aftermath of an election in 2007 when 1,200 people were killed.
Kenya is pressing the ICC’s members for an immediate change in the rules to say that heads of state do not have to attend trials, part of a broader campaign to halt the cases against its political leaders.
Officials also want a longer-term amendment to the founding treaty that would ban the prosecution of heads of state, a campaign which has become a rallying point in Africa, where many leaders say they are the target of an overzealous court in The Hague.
Kenyatta and Ruto deny the charges of fomenting violence after the election. Ruto’s trial began last month, while Kenyatta’s trial is due to start on February 5 after being delayed for a third time.
“Africa feels marginalised, like toddlers, whom the international community feels has never learned to walk,” Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed told Reuters on Wednesday.
Last week, the African Union lost its bid to have the U.N. Security Council defer the cases for a year so the two could deal with the aftermath of an attack on a shopping mall by al Qaeda-linked Somali militants in which at least 67 died.