Kenya’s President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta confirmed to a joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate today that he will be going to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to attend a status conference on his case on Wednesday.
Kenyatta said he was handing over power to Deputy President William Samoei Ruto so that he can attend the status conference as an individual. Kenyatta said he would be doing this by invoking a constitutional provision that allows the president to appoint his deputy as acting head of state. After his speech to parliament, he held a ceremony at Harambee House, the downtown Nairobi office of the president, where he signed the legal notice effecting the handover of power.
In his address to the National Assembly and Senate, Kenyatta told legislators he was going to The Hague so as to ease anxiety about whether he would appear before the ICC as ordered by Trial Chamber V(b).
“Nothing in my position or my deeds as President warrants my being in court. So to all those who are concerned that my personal attendance of the status conference compromises the sovereignty of the people or sets a precedence for the attendance of Presidents before the court, be assured this is not the case,” Kenyatta told legislators.
“To protect the sovereignty of the Kenyan Republic, I now take the extraordinary and unprecedented step of the invoking Article 147(3) of the constitution and I will shortly issue the legal notice necessary to appoint Honourable William Ruto, the Deputy President, as acting President while I attend the status conference at The Hague in the Netherlands,” said Kenyatta.
Before Monday’s speech to the parliament, there had been speculation whether Kenyatta was going to attend the status conference on Wednesday as ordered by the chamber. The speculation gained momentum when the chamber declined to grant the request of Kenyatta’s lawyers that he be excused from the status conference or it be postponed to a later date.
The chamber has scheduled two status conferences for Tuesday and Wednesday because it says the Kenyatta case has reached “a critical juncture.” A status conference is a meeting between the judges and lawyers in which judges may seek clarifications on submissions the respective lawyers have made to it. It is also a forum where the judges and lawyers may address other matters.
In the case of this week’s conferences, the judges will be asking about progress in implementing earlier orders they issued to the Kenyan government to provide to the prosecution eight categories of records. The prosecution have said these records will determine whether they will drop the charges against Kenyatta.
During his address to Parliament, Kenyatta stated he was innocent of the five counts of crimes against humanity that he is facing at the ICC. The charges arose from the violence that followed the December 2007 presidential poll. At the time Kenyatta did not run for president but was supporting the re-election campaign of then incumbent President Mwai Kibaki.
“I wish to reiterate here for all that my conscience is clear, has been clear and will remain clear that I am innocent of all the accusations that have been leveled against me,” Kenyatta told legislators.