NAIROBI — Kenya denied on Wednesday that it was lobbying other African states to pull out of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Hague tribunal that has put its president on trial.
Leaders at an African summit on Saturday will discuss relations with the ICC, which has only prosecuted Africans.
Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed denied Nairobi was urging countries to pull out and played down any prospect of united action.
"It is actually quite naive to think that 34 countries can come together with the sole aim of moving out of the Rome Statute (that established the ICC)," she said in Nairobi.
"We have not asked anybody to support a walkout."
Kenya’s parliament is demanding the government quit the ICC, and many other Africans have voiced frustration that it has so far only charged people from their continent.
But officials from several African states, including continental powers Nigeria and South Africa, have suggested there is no consensus to leave the court.
An African Union (AU) official said when the summit was announced last month that leaders would decide whether they would withdraw and said Kenya had been lobbying for that.
Ms Mohamed said Africa’s relationship with the ICC would be one of several issues discussed at the summit in Addis Ababa.
Senior ICC official Herman von Hebel told a news briefing at The Hague that any withdrawal would send the message that a country’s citizens did not deserve the human rights protection that the court provides.
"This is not a trial of Africa," he said over the chants of Ivorian protesters who had gathered in support of former president Laurent Gbagbo, who is on trial in The Hague.
reports that Kenya’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that President Uhuru Kenyatta had behaved correctly towards the ICC since he was charged with crimes against humanity, while declining to say if he would be present when his trial opens in the Netherlands.
"Kenyatta has fully co-operated with the ICC up until now but the circumstances are now different. Before, he was not the head of state," Ms Mohamed said. His trial, which is scheduled to begin on November 12, would be the first of a sitting president in history, she said.
Ms Mohamed said that Mr Kenyatta was waiting for the ICC judges to rule on his application to attend some sessions via video link. He, Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua Sang, stand accused for their alleged role in the 2008 post-election violence in which more than 1,200 people were killed and more than 500,000 displaced. In May, the AU backed a request by Kenya for the trials to be referred back to the country, saying the hearings risked raising ethnic tensions and destabilising the economy.
The AU will host a one-day special summit in Addis Ababa next Saturday to debate Africa’s relations with the ICC, and specifically relating to the Kenyatta-Ruto prosecution.
Indignation is running high after some governments accused the court of being racist and anti-African and have said the 34 AU countries who are ICC members, should withdraw.
Reuters, with Steve Mbogo