Lessons in Kenya’s bid to save Ruto from Hague clutches

By: GEORGE KEGORO

Kenya made another diplomatic miscalculation, staking the prestige of the country over what ended up being an abortive attempt to convince the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute to change Rule 68 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Statute.

Whatever the results of the attempts, Kenya is unlikely to be regretting its decision to prosecute the failed application. This is something that had to be done in terms of domestic coalition politics.

Having previously expended significant capital on trying to save President Uhuru Kenyatta from his ICC trial, and in the light of the quiet recriminations within Jubilee that equivalent effort in the trial of Deputy President William Ruto had not been shown, this was a battle that the ruling coalition had to go fight, in order to save itself from those accusations.

WHAT NEXT? SEVERING LINKS WITH ICC!

In the face of the failure to get what it wanted, it is difficult to see what Jubilee will do next.

The National Assembly had published the International Crimes (Repeal) Bill, which was viewed as leverage in case the country failed to get its way at the Assembly.

It is expected that Kenya will next take steps towards the repeal of the International Crimes Act, as the Bill promises, and will, in that case, also withdraw its membership from the ICC, at last, severing links with the court.

A total of 123 countries are state parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC. Out of these 34 are African states, 19 are Asia-Pacific states, while 18 are from Eastern Europe.

There are 27 states from Latin American and Caribbean region, and 25 are Western European and other states.

Thus, Africa has the largest bloc of states parties within the ICC and should have a big say in there.

ONLY UGANDA SUPPORTED KENYA’S POSITION

Kenya was trying to mobilise just this big group into its camp and the mass walkout that Kenya had threatened was for of these states.

However, things did not work out this way. Only Uganda supported Kenya’s position, while all the others were silent in the debate.

Thus, Uganda’s loyalty towards Kenya on the ICC question has been exemplary.

In New York last year, when Kenya tried, again without success, to make the Prosecutor’s conduct the subject of the Assembly’s discussion, only Uganda supported Kenya, with all other African countries, again, silent on the matter.

When a European delegate rose to oppose Kenya, he got a loud applause at the end of his speech, which put Kenya in its place.

The previous year, 2013, the Assembly held at The Hague followed the tumultuous Extraordinary Summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa, the one in which President Kenyatta made a strong speech, calling the ICC a pantomime of declining imperial powers.

A WALKOUT

The raw emotions on display in Addis Ababa, only a week earlier, however, failed to translate into a walkout during the Assembly at The Hague.

On that occasion, as well, only Uganda spoke in Kenya’s favour.

Other African delegations remained silent and, South African, in particular, stood on the fence with a carefully-worded speech intended neither to disappoint Kenya nor oppose those who did not support Kenya’s cause.

The feeling in New York last year was that the Assembly had given all it could to Kenya, (the amendments that led to the excusal of its leaders from continuous presence at their trials) and that it was time for Kenya to reciprocate by freeing the Assembly from its prison.

If Kenya goes ahead with its threats to pull out of the ICC, it is likely to be a lonely walk, rather than a walk in the company of African friends.

This reality makes whatever decision Kenya has to make a lot more difficult, and it will be interesting to see how Jubilee next moves this matter.

In the wake of what happened at The Hague last week, a time has surely come to ask some questions domestically.

PERSONAL MATTER

When they campaigned for office in 2013 Kenyatta and Ruto assured that they considered their case to be a personal matter that needed to be resolved separately from their duties for the country.

However, once Jubilee took power, the trials became the centrepiece of Kenya’s diplomatic effort.

Kenya has made friends, and enemies, according to their readiness to support the president and his deputy in their trials before the ICC.

Just last week, Jubilee threatened the British government that failure to support its position on Rule 68 risked the non-renewal of the longstanding military cooperation agreement between the two countries.

This is an example of the fusion between the personal and the public, which has taken place because of the ICC cases.

Why would the country’s military arrangements depend on the private trial of a citizen, however high?

The often bawdy behaviour abroad by Kenyan leaders, as they struggle to please the big two in Jubilee is a source of embarrassment for the country and must now be called out.

Kenyan officials are busy building personal careers and will do whatever it takes to retain favour in Jubilee, even if it embarrasses the country.

Just the way it has become clear that Jubilee’s supposed economic vision for the country is all phantom, its supposed vision on foreign relations is nothing more than an attempt at personal survival in which Kenya only comes second.

Saturday’s Nation revealed the large sums of money that just this last trip is likely to cost the taxpayer.

It is also time the country was told how much cases that were supposed to be a personal challenge have cost the taxpayer.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION