The African Union urged its members to "speak with one voice" to prevent criminal proceedings at the International Criminal court against sitting presidents, according to a statement on Saturday.
The 54-nation organisation said it was disappointed that a request to the UN Security Council to defer the trials of Kenya's leaders "has not yielded the positive result expected". The African Union also has sought the deferral of criminal proceedings against Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged with genocide in Darfur.
Only Botswana has opposed the stand taken by the African Union, made in a statement received on Saturday after a summit in Ethiopia attended by 34 leaders.
"African states parties should comply with African Union decisions on the ICC and continue to speak with one voice," the statement said, adding "There is an imperative need for all member states to ensure that they adhere to and articulate commonly agreed positions …"
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto face charges of crimes against humanity at the international court at The Hague for allegedly orchestrating post-election violence that killed more than 1 000 people following a disputed presidential election in late 2007. Both men deny the charges.
The International Criminal Court has recently come under strong criticism from African leaders who accuse it of racism in indicting only Africans. Countries such as Uganda have suggested they may decide to sever ties with the court in solidarity with Kenya. Some Africans also argue that the Kenyan leaders need to concentrate on governing their countries to ensure stability as the region faces unprecedented terrorist challenges.
Ruto's trial continues at The Hague but the case against Kenyatta may collapse. Kenyatta's trial was to start in November but was postponed to February after the prosecution and defence teams said they needed more time to prepare. The prosecutor in December asked for an additional three-month adjournment after one witness withdrew and another said they gave false evidence.
A Kenyan court on Friday refused to stop the arrest of a journalist wanted by the international court for allegedly interfering with prosecution witnesses in the case against Ruto. – Sapa-AP