Africa

Uhuru Kenyatta will appear at ICC in The Hague

Uhuru Kenyatta, May 2013 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Uhuru Kenyatta is temporarily stepping down as president

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has confirmed he will be appearing at the International Criminal Court in The Hague this week.

He told parliament that his deputy, William Ruto, would be in charge during his absence.

Mr Kenyatta faces charges of organising ethnic massacres that killed 1,200 people after the 2007 elections - something he denies.

The 8 October hearing is due to set a date for his trial to begin.

The ICC had summoned him to appear to explain allegations that evidence against him had been withheld.

In September, the court postponed the trial after prosecutors said the Kenyan government had failed to deliver key documents. Witnesses for the prosecution have withdrawn from the case.

Dozens of Kenyan MPs are expected to travel to The Hague to back Mr Kenyatta at the status hearing.

Mr Kenyatta said he would be going to The Hague in a personal capacity - not as president - so as not to compromise the sovereignty of Kenya's 40 million people.

Image copyright AP
Image caption William Ruto (right) also faces charges at the Hague

"To protect the sovereignty of the Kenyan republic, I now take the extraordinary and unprecedented step of evoking article 1473 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," he said.

He again stressed his innocence: "I wish to reiterate here for all that my conscience is clear, has been clear and will remain forever clear that I am innocent of all the accusations that have been levelled against me.

"After all this, the prosecutor of the ICC has since last December and as recently as last month, admitted to the judges that the available evidence is insufficient to prove alleged criminal responsibility beyond reasonable doubt."

There had been growing doubts as to whether Mr Kenyatta would become the first sitting president to attend the court. He had already been to the ICC before becoming president in 2013.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The violence left 1,200 people dead and displaced tens of thousands more

Mr Kenyatta faces five charges relating to the ethnic massacres - the worst violence in Kenya since independence in 1963. Tens of thousands of people were displaced and Kenya's reputation for stability was tarnished.

Mr Kenyatta was a close ally of President Mwai Kibaki, who was declared the winner of the 2007 election. Mr Kibaki's rival, Raila Odinga, claimed the poll was marred by fraud.

The dispute took on an ethnic dimension, pitting members of the Kikuyu ethnic group of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Kibaki against other communities. Mr Kenyatta is accused of organising an ethnic Kikuyu gang, the Mungiki sect, to attack rival groups.

Vice-President Ruto also faces charges at The Hague, but he was on Mr Odinga's side during the violence. He also denies the charges.

More on this story