Botswana has endorsed African Union’s proposal that the International Criminal Court (ICC) should defer Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyata’s trial scheduled for November 12. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Phandu Skelemani told the press and envoys in Gaborone on October 14 that the deferral would be to enable the Kenyan President to fulfill his duties of running the country. He said Botswana also agreed that a request be made to suspend proceedings against the Kenyan Vice President, William Ruto. Mr Skelemani said Botswana supported Kenya and that the political situation in that country was not stable and needed the presence of the President and his Vice. “We have got Al-Shabbab and Al Qaeda attacking and this is not a very settled political situation right now, so he has to be there to take charge,” he said.
The minister noted that the just-ended Extra Ordinary Summit of Heads of State that was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia called on the UN Security Council to defer the trial under Article 16 of the Court’s Rome Statute, which allowed for a delay of a year. He said the UN Security Council could find a way of either deferring or postponing the case for this resolution, to allow for the Kenyan situation to stabilise. Mr Skelemani refuted allegations that AU said the Kenyan leader should not go to trial, adding that AU was not a signatory to the statute, hence it could not ask for the amendment and only member states who were parties could. He said the issue was debated at length because other heads of state were of the view that no sitting president should be tried and that President Kenyatta should not go to court. “The Rome Treaty tells us what crimes can be tried and we can only get out of that by amending the Rome Treaty,” he explained. He further said most constitutions of African countries gave immunity to sitting heads of state from prosecution and the focus of the debates was as if that was the international law, whereas those were the countries’ constitutions. “By signing the Rome Treaty for the crimes under the Rome Statute, people go to the court and immunity under their constitutions does not apply,” he said. Mr Skelemani stressed that Botswana’s position was clear:
that it could not live with a situation whereby there was impunity and could not ask for anything that allowed for that, hence the reason why the country’s constitution gave sitting presidents only two terms. The minister further said President Kenyatta had been always been complying and going to the court and was seeking accommodation to be tried whilst performing his duties and that it had not been his desire to have the case stopped, adding that his case still stands. “President Kenyatta wanted to clear his name. We agree with that and Botswana feels that was an honourable approach and we are willing to help him clear his name and for the case to go ahead,” he said. Attorney General, Dr Athaliah Molokomme said Botswana agreed to the proposal that a task team be sent, made up of five members of the executive council led by AU chairperson to undertake consultation with members of UN Security Council. The Kenyan leaders have been charged with crimes against humanity for allegedly masterminding the ethnic violence that left at least a thousand dead after the disputed 2007 elections.