Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Botswana rejects AU’s resolution to drop Kenyatta’s ICC charges

Botswana was the only member state at the just ended African Union (AU) summit that denounced a resolution tabled by Uganda to drop International Criminal Court (ICC) crimes against humanity charges laid against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto.

Other than Botswana’s opposition, the 53 African heads of state who were in Addis Ababa unanimously supported the petition. The AU member states urged ICC to let the Kenyan courts deal with “the issues emanating from the bouts of post-election violence in Kenya that killed over 1000 people in 2007-2008”.

Foreign Affairs Minister Phandu Skelemani confirmed in an interview with The Sunday Standard that Botswana opposed the resolution because the AU was politicizing a legal matter.

“The AU is not Kenyatta’s lawyer. He must be arraigned before the ICC. This is like when a suspect is to appear before the Lobatse High Court and then we stand on the way of the judiciary system by saying that he should be acquitted before he could answer for charges that he is facing,” said Skelemani.

He said the AU is a political body while the ICC is a legal body. “What the AU is saying is a political issue. How can you mix a legal issue with a political one? We think it’s improper and that’s why we’re opposing the resolution,” said Skelemani.

On suggestion by AU that evidence used to lay charges against Kenyatta was weak, the Minister said such argument did not hold water because there was also no evidence suggesting that there were no witnesses to testify against Kenyatta and Ruto before the ICC.

“Kenyatta must go to the ICC by himself and make that request. He must go there and prove that indeed there are no witnesses or the evidence is weak. It is for these reasons that Botswana voted against the resolution,” said Skelemani.

Asked if Botswana was not risking isolating itself from the continent by opposing a resolution adopted with a significant majority and adopted by consensus, Skelemani insisted that Botswana believes in principles and would not compromise to accept decisions taken by the African body.
The AU Assembly was last Sunday asked to vote on a statement saying that it “supports and endorses the Eastern Africa Region’s request for a referral of the ICC investigations and prosecutions in relation to the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya”.

Reports indicate that an AU official said Botswana also argued that the submission, put forward by Uganda and seconded by Sudan on behalf of the eastern Africa region in the past weeks, was in violation of the AU’s rules, which stipulates proposals must be submitted within three months.

AU Chairman and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is quoted as saying that, “African leaders have come to a consensus that the process that has been conducted in Africa has a flaw… The intention was to avoid any kind of impunity… but now the process has degenerated to some kind of race hunting.”

The AU has regularly argued the ICC is unfairly targeting Africans and rejects the indictment of sitting presidents; while Botswana has always maintained the same stance that such leaders should be arraigned before the ICC.

It is understood that the two Kenyan leaders’ lawyers are also fighting the legal battle to have the cases dropped on the grounds of weak evidence; three of six cases of senior Kenyans have already been dropped. Prosecution lawyers say witnesses have been bribed and intimidated.


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