By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Managing Editor, Impunity Watch
NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has confirmed he will be appearing at a hearing at the International Criminal Court in The Hague this week. The hearing, which is to be held on 8 October, is expected to set a date for his trial on charges of organizing ethnic massacres that killed 1,200 people and left more than 600,000 people displaced after the 2007 elections. President Kenyatta denies the charges, during an address to the nation he said “I wish to reiterate here for all that my conscience is clear, has been clear and will remain forever clear that I am innocent of all the accusations that have been leveled against me.” The International Criminal Court had President Kenyatta to appear to explain allegations that evidence against him had been withheld. In September, the court postponed the trial after prosecutors said that the Kenyan government had failed to deliver key documents. Witnesses for the prosecution have also withdrawn from the case.
Kenyatta gave an address to the nation before parliament informing the public that he would invoke an article of the Kenyan constitution that will allow his deputy William Ruto to temporarily assume the role as president. “To protect the sovereignty of the Kenyan republic, I now take the extraordinary and unprecedented step of evoking article 1473 of the constitution and I will shortly issue the legal notice necessary to appoint honorable William Ruto, the deputy president, as acting president while I attend the status conference at The Hague in the Netherlands.” The article, which until now has never been evoked in Kenyan History, says that the deputy can assume the duties of the president when the president is absent, temporarily incapacitated or during any other period the president decides.
Kenyatta is essentially using this loophole in the Kenyan constitution as a way of fulfilling the International Criminal Court’s order that he attend Wednesday’s hearing before the ICC but avoiding becoming the first sitting president to sit before the court. Because of this constitutional provision he will be appearing before the court as a private citizen, without giving up the ability to resume his passion as President of Kenya.
There had been doubts about whether President Kenyatta, who had been to the International Criminal Court before assuming office in 2013, would become the first sitting president to attend the court. Although he will now be appearing before the court as a private citizen dozens of Kenyan Members of parliament are expected to travel to The Hague in support of President Kenyatta.
For more information please see:
BBC News – Uhuru Kenyatta will appear at ICC in The Hague – 6 October 2014
The Guardian – Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta to step down from office to attend ICC – 6 October 2014
Irish Independent – Kenyatta to take presidency break – 6 October 2014
BBC News – ICC hearing: Kenya MPs ‘to back Uhuru Kenyatta at Hague’ – 3 October 2014