African nations decided on Saturday that Kenya needs its president, and will request a delay of Uhuru Kenyatta's trial.
African leaders agreed on Saturday after a meeting held at the Union's head office in addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta should not attend a trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) if the UN Security Council did not agree to delay the proceedings, Ethiopia's foreign minister, Tedros Adhanom, said.
He said that the AU would request the trial be deferred under article 16 of the court's Rome Statute that allows a delay of a year subject to renewal and would request a postponement if that demand was not met.
"If that is not met, what the summit decided is that President Kenyatta should not appear until the request we have made is actually answered," Tedros told journalists, explaining decisions of a meeting to discuss Africa's relations with the court.
Earlier today, African nations also agreed that sitting heads of state should not be put on trial by the ICC where Kenya's leaders are in the dock, Adhanom said at a ministerial meeting. "We have rejected the double standard that the ICC is applying in dispensing international justice," Tedros told the delegates before Saturday's summit where African leaders met to endorse the ministerial recommendations.
'Africans are not second-class people'
He said trying Kenya's president and his deputy infringed on that nation's sovereignty. The two men deny charges that they orchestrated a killing spree after a disputed 2007 election.
Frustration with the ICC has been growing in Africa because the court has convicted only one man, an African warlord, and all others it has charged are also Africans. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, facing trial at the ICC for crimes against humanity, on Saturday attacked the court as imperialistic and racist.
"The ICC has been reduced into a painfully farcical pantomime, a travesty that adds insult to the injury of victims. It stopped being the home of justice the day it became the toy of declining imperial powers," the president told an African Union summit.
"We would love nothing more than to have an international forum for justice and accountability, but what choice do we have when we get only bias and race-hunting at the ICC?" he said.
Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have been charged by the ICC for allegedly masterminding a vicious campaign of ethnic violence that left at least 1 100 dead and more than 600 000 homeless after disputed 2007 elections.
Kenyatta said he had been the victim of "gratuitous libel and prejudice" and portrayed as "a fugitive from justice who is guilty as charged".
"It is the fact that this court performs on the cue of European and American governments against the sovereignty of African States and peoples that should outrage us," he said in his fiercest attack to date against the court.
"All the people indicted before that court, ever since its founding, have been Africans," he said, urging the AU to unite in the face of a "divide and rule" policy and "fashion African solutions to African problems".
"Africa is not a third-rate territory of second-class peoples. We are not a project, or experiment of outsiders," he said.
Kenyatta's trial is due to start in The Hague on November 12. Should he fail to turn up for any of the hearings the ICC could issue an arrest warrant, with Kenya then running the risk of diplomatic isolation. – Reuters – Sapa