Khama backtracks on ICC
Gaborone – Botswana has made a sudden U-turn and said it agrees with the AU that charges by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta be deferred until he is no longer a sitting Head of State.
The AU has insisted that the ICC is unfairly targeting African Heads of State and recently rejected the indictment of sitting leaders. Botswana has always insisted that it should not matter whether or not an indicted individual is serving as Head of State and that the individual must be arraigned before the ICC at The Hague in The Netherlands.
Speaking to reporters in Gaborone following his return from the extraordinary sessions of the Assembly of the Executive Council and Assembly of the AU, Botswana’s Foreign Affairs Minister Phandu Skelemani said they supported the continental position on the matter.
“The AU leaders have decided that no sitting African leader should be tried at any international court, including the ICC. As Botswana, we have no problem with this resolution because what it means is that the charges have not been dropped but only deferred,” he said.
He said the ICC could still try President Kenyatta when he was no longer Head of State and Government. African leaders met on October 11 and 12 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and dwelt on two main items: the continent’s relationship with the ICC, and the election of the Commissioner for Peace and Security.
At a previous summit, Botswana accused the AU of politicising the ICC case against President Kenyatta.
AU member states have urged the ICC to let Kenyan courts deal with the charges preferred against President Kenyatta and his Deputy, William Ruto.
AU Chairperson, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told reporters after the recent meeting that the decision to the effect that President Kenyatta should not attend any hearings of the ICC while still in office was reached unanimously by all states.
Botswana had opposed a plan by several AU members to pull out en masse from the ICC.
In his address to the summit, President Kenyatta said the ICC disregarded and disrespected the sovereignty of African states.
“My government's decisive election must be seen as a categorical rebuke by the people of Kenya of those who wished to interfere with our internal affairs and infringe our sovereignty,” President Kenyatta said.
Thirty-two African countries have ratified the Rome Statute that created the ICC.
However the court has come under fire for apparently targeting Africans only and turning a blind eye to the atrocities perpetrated by Westerners, particularly in the illegal invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
Former President Konate said without the standby force, the African continent would continue to rely on foreign interventions to resolve its crises; therefore, member states must ensure that they own the combat unit and fund activities designed for its effective operationalisation. A European Union representative, Lieutenant-Colonel Roberto Arcieri, said Amani Africa II is the most important associated capacity building initiative, which has jointly been adopted as a vehicle to allow the AU to develop the capacity of its standby force by training and evaluating continental peace and support operations.
Such an effort, he said, would complement the superb and historical contribution of African forces to international peacekeeping operations.
Lt-Col Arcieri noted that the peace and security partnership aims to ensure adequate, coherent and sustainable support for the establishment of and function of the African peace and security architecture.
“The partnership supports an African led effort in all stages of the conflict cycle. The partnership is meant to promote long term capacity building including; military, police and civilian crisis management and coherent and coordinated support for the ASF,” he said.
It is understood that the Gaborone meeting was also aimed at finalising plans for a major field exercise in Lesotho next October in support of the African Standby Force’s further development.