The news made the front page of The Star but only as a secondary point to a report that Uhuru Kenyatta has changed his legal defence team for the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. It barely rated a quarter-page report in The Daily Nation and no coverage whatsoever in The Standard. However, a statement by ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo is potentially of great significance for the presidential elections in Kenya and could point to major implications for the ICC process following that election.
OCAMPO WILL STAND IN WAY OF AN APPEAL
Luis Ocampo wrote to the ICC judges saying that although he would prefer the trial of the ‘Ocampo four’ to begin before Kenya’s next elections he would not oppose an appeal by Kenyatta and the former head of Kenya’s Civil Service, Francis Muthaura, challenging whether the ICC had jurisdiction over the case.
The appeal is a process that will take some time, the next step due to take place on June 12 when the legal teams will appear at The Hague for a ‘status conference’.
The appeal process alone would put the completion of the trial (assuming the appeal is turned down) beyond the date of the next election.
ICC TRIAL NOT CONCLUDED BEFORE MARCH 2013
However, Luis Ocampo expressed a view that whatever happens, the legal process will not be completed until after the election. He was reported as saying that even if the ICC trial began today ‘it would not be concluded before March 2013’.
THE IMPLICATIONS OF OCAMPO’S STATEMENT
Now consider the implications of this under-reported statement. The ICC’s chief prosecutor is saying
that Uhuru Kenyatta cannot be convicted of crimes against humanity before the Kenyan election. Despite what some commentators have been saying that means Kenyatta can run for President of the Republic of Kenya, whether it be in December 2012 or March 2013.
Now also consider this: Kenya holds its elections, Kenyatta wins (it’s perfectly feasible – see Kenya Forum article, ‘THE OPINION POLLS IN KENYA: ODINGA vs KENYATTA’, 2 March), will the international community, even the ICC, really want to drag the president of a sovereign and democratic nation, to court? Not least a country that is vital to the regional interests of ‘the West’?
One commentator has suggested if Uhuru Kenyatta is allowed to stand and wins the World Bank will pull all funding, the West will refuse to lend money to Kenya and cut off its aid. The Kenya Forum thinks not. With Somalia and Sudan in turmoil, pirates on the coast, Al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda groups operating in the region, and much else besides, the United States needs a friend in Kenya, and the US runs the World Bank and ‘the West’.
It’s just a thought…