Botswana is expected to soften its position on African leaders facing trial from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a bid to win support for its candidature for the ICC presidency of the Assembly of State Parties.
Attorney General, Athaliah Molokomme announced on Thursday that Botswana will contest the Presidency of the Assembly of States Parties in respect of the 2015 – 2017 triennium. “We naturally count on the confidence and invaluable support of States Parties towards this candidature.”
If elected, Botswana will be the first African country to hold the ICC high office after Jordan, Costa Rica, Liechtenstein and Estonia which currently holds the presidency until next year (2014).Botswana will be counting on the support of other African countries at a time when the relationship between the African Union and the ICC is at its lowest. The prosecutions of Kenya’s president and his deputy have plunged relations between the world’s first permanent war crimes court and the African Union to the deepest point in the court’s 12-year history.
This may explain Botswana’s sudden change of position in relation to African head of government on trial at the ICC. For a long time, Botswana was Africa’s lone voice in support of the ICC against a hostile African Union. Attorney General, Athaliah Molokomme on Thursday tabled an amendment to Article 63 of the Rome Statute in a bid to shield sitting heads of state from trial at the International Criminal Court. The amendment amendments would lead to a change in the regulations and exempt Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta from attending the trials personally.
This comes only a few weeks after Botswana climbed down from its earlier position that Uhuru Kenyatta would not be allowed in Botswana because of his ICC case and instead supported Kenya’s request for a deferral of the ICC cases against Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. To underline the change of heart, President Ian Khama earlier this month ( November 6th) invited Kenyatta for a one day state visit to Botswana where it is believed the ICC featured prominently in their discussions.
The current African Union position is that Ruto and Kenyatta’s trials should be delayed because Kenya needs its leaders to help fight al-Shabab terrorists in neighboring Somalia and at home.
In the past, Botswana has vouched to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir if he were ever to set foot in Botswana, at the time of going to press the Sunday Standard had not established Botswana’s position in light of the new developments.