President Uhuru Kenyatta’s closest allies want him to travel to The Hague next week for the status conference in his case.
This is a departure from a few weeks ago when many, such as House Majority Leader Aden Duale, were noisily advising him not to go.
Many of these allies, who would not speak on the record because State House discussions are confidential, believe that the case against the President is on the verge of collapse and that cooperation with the court was the best policy.
Top government sources said arrangements were being made for the President’s travel to the International Criminal Court on Monday where he will likely be the first sitting Head of State to appear before the judges.
However, State House was non-committal on the presidential travel plans and the Nation could not independently verify the claims of travel arrangements.
The circle around the President, including his political allies and advisers, has previously been sceptical of the wisdom of the President travelling to The Hague.
Senator Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), MPs Mary Wambui (Othaya) and Kareke Mbiuki (Maara) claimed that the ICC was waiting for the President to defy the court orders to pounce on him with a warrant of arrest.
“We do not have any fears about the President going to The Hague for the status conference. Our concern is that they just want to embarrass the President whichever way they can knowing that they have no case against him,” said Mr Murkomen by phone.
The senator, who is a lawyer, said the President will travel to The Hague but accused the ICC of seeking to raise its profile by having President Kenyatta before it.
BOLSTER THE PROFILE OF THE COURT
“Our concern is that the President must be respected. They want to use the President to bolster the profile of the court. It is just an unwarranted distraction,” he said.
Ms Wambui, who was speaking in Nyeri, urged the President to fly to The Hague as ordered by the Trial Chamber headed by Judge Kuniko Ozaki since there was no reason for him to be arrested while at the ICC.
She said the ICC officials could be looking for an excuse to order the arrest of the President.
“Maybe they just want him to defy the court order and take legal action against him so it is advisable for him to comply and hear what Bensouda wants to say once he goes there in person,” she said.
Mr Mbiuki, taking cue of his colleagues, said: “We are in support that the President attends the proceedings. After all, it is just a status conference and we know that this is a case that the prosecutor is going to lose. It is on its last legs.”
Traditional Kikuyu Intercessors, led by their director, Mr Mathenge wa Iregi, too said Mr Kenyatta should comply with court orders.
Mr Iregi, accompanied by six other elders, conducted traditional prayers — facing Mt Kenya — and said he thought the ICC just wanted to make history by prosecuting a president and his deputy.
“Just like (former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno) Ocampo said that the world will learn from Kenya, we in turn tell them that the world will learn from the Supreme God we serve who will fight for our country,” he said.
Judges have summoned Mr Kenyatta in person, convinced the case is at a crucial point and that the issues to be discussed are important and require his presence.
ICC judge orders Uhuru Kenyatta to appear in person
The International Criminal Court’s trial chamber has ordered President Uhuru Kenyatta to appear before it in person on October 8 at a status conference.
The judges rejected President Kenyatta’s request to appear via video link.
President Kenyatta has been summoned to discuss the status of cooperation between the prosecution and the Kenyan Government.
“The Chamber, by Majority, finds that the requirements of justice in this case necessitate the physical presence of the accused at the Court.
“The Chamber does not find merit in the Defence’s submission regarding the accused’s engagements having been planned prior to the convening of the Status Conference. Therefore, the Chamber is also not persuaded by the alternative request for an adjournment of the Status Conference,” the ruling stated.
President Kenyatta had requested the trial chamber to excuse him from attending the status conference and instead be allowed to follow the proceedings via video link.
He had also requested Trial Chamber V (B) to reschedule the status conference to a date after October 9.
The change of date, his lawyers said, would allow him to attend the East African Community (EAC) Northern Corridor Infrastructure Summit in Kampala, Uganda, on October 8 and Uganda’s independence day on October 9.
“In his capacity as president of Kenya and also chairman of the Heads of State of the East African Community, Mr Kenyatta is due to attend the Northern Corridor Infrastructure Summit. This meeting is attended by the regional heads of State and is of great importance and significance,” defence lawyers Steven Kay and Gillian Higgins said.
The defence lawyers argued that the the EAC meeting was arranged before the judges requested him to appear at the status conference.
Fatou Bensouda, victims oppose Uhuru Kenyatta’s video link request
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has opposed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s application to be excused from attending the Status Conference next week.
The request by the President to be allowed to use a video link instead of attending the conference in person at The Hague has also been met with opposition from victims of the 2007/8 post-election violence.
Mr Kenyatta requested the Trial Chamber to excuse his attendance at the conference on October 8. He also wants the hearing adjourned.
The legal representative of the victims told the ICC that victims overwhelmingly opposed the request.
The lawyer said the victims were aware that people accused of far less serious crimes than Mr Kenyatta were required to be physically present in courtrooms in Kenya.
“The presence of the accused in the courtroom is an integral part of the victims’ perception of a fair trial and of their belief that justice is being done,” said Fergal Gaynor, the common legal representative of the victims.
The lawyer said the fact that Mr Kenyatta had not appeared in person in an ICC courtroom for three years, and therefore seemed to be benefiting from unusually favourable treatment, had a negative impact on the victims’ perception of the trial.
He added that Mr Kenyatta contested for elections fully aware that he would appear in person at the ICC, irrespective of the outcome.
“It is submitted that no accused, regardless of his status, should be permitted to rely on circumstances which he has knowingly, voluntarily and deliberately brought into being,” he said.
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