African leaders are to hold a special summit next month amid growing opposition to the crimes against humanity trials of Kenya’s leadership at the International Criminal Court (ICC), officials have said.
The African Union (AU) has accused the Hague-based ICC of singling out Africans for prosecution and has previously called for the court to drop the Kenya cases.
The AU now wants the trials of the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto shifted to Kenya.
Though diplomats say that it is unlikely that all 34 AU-member states who are ICC members will take a common position and stage a mass pullout from the organisation, officials say that option will be a topic for discussion.
“A complete walk-out of signatories (to the Rome Statute) is certainly a possibility, but other requests may be made,” an AU official told the Reuters news agency.
The summit “will be a follow-up to the decision that that they took in May… where they requested the International Criminal Court to facilitate giving Kenya the opportunity to investigate and try the accused,” the deputy head of the AU’s executive branch, Erastus Mwencha, told the AFP news agency.
He said the meeting would take place “in early October” in the Ethiopian capital, where the AU is headquartered.
Kenyatta and Ruto, as well as former radio boss Joshua Arap Sang, face crimes against humanity charges for their alleged roles in orchestrating ethnic violence after disputed 2007 elections. The violence between their respective Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities left at least 1,100 dead and more than 600,000 homeless.
Kenya’s spokesman for the presidency Manoah Esipisu said the country had not canvassed for the summit, but “welcomed the opportunity by African leaders to discuss what is obviously an important matter for the continent”.
Earlier this month, Kenyan lawmakers voted on a motion to withdraw recognition of the court’s jurisdiction.
Any move by Kenya to leave the ICC’s Rome Statute will have no effect on the current trials, but observers say it may lead to an exodus of court member states in Africa.
The trial of Ruto and Sang is already underway, and Kenyatta’s trial is set to begin in November. The three have so far cooperated with the court and have denied the charges against them.