Yoweri Museveni, the Ugandan president, has called on African nations to pull out of the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, amid accusations that it unfairly targets Africans.
Museveni’s comments, made at a ceremony to mark Kenya’s 51 years of independence from Britain, came a week after the chief prosecutor at the Hague-based court dropped crimes-against-humanity charges against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Museveni criticised the ICC for continuing with Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto’s case despite an African Union (AU) resolution that no sitting African head of state or deputy should be tried at the court.
“I will bring a motion to the African Union’s next session. I want all of us to get out of that court of the West. Let them [Westerners] stay with their court,” he said in Swahili.
Although prosecutors dropped charges against Kenyatta, the trial of Ruto on similar charges is under way at the ICC.
“With connivance, they are putting Deputy President Ruto, someone who has been elected by Kenyans, in front of the court there in Europe,” Museveni said
The AU is scheduled to hold its annual summit of heads of state at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the end of January, but has not announced a specific date.
Blow to ICC
The collapse of the Kenyatta case was a blow to the court, which has secured only two convictions, both against little-known Congolese warlords, and has yet to prove it can hold the powerful to account.
Many Africans accuse the ICC of unfairly targeting their continent although the majority of cases it has handled have been referred to the court by African nations themselves.
Museveni said he had backed the court before it turned into a tool for “oppressing Africa”.
“I supported the court at first because I like discipline. I don’t want people to err without accountability,” he said.
“But they have turned it into a vessel for oppressing Africa again so I’m done with that court. I won’t work with them again.”
Uganda has in the past sought the assistance of the ICC in bringing rebel warlord Joseph Kony to account for war crimes committed by his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda over two decades.
Kenyatta and Ruto also addressed the ceremony in an open-air stadium in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, saying they were confident Ruto and his co-accused would also be vindicated.
“I ask you all to join me in supporting my deputy and his co-accused as they also await their overdue vindication,” Kenyatta said.
Last year, African leaders tried but failed to pass a resolution at the UN that sought to suspend the trial of both Kenyatta and Ruto at the ICC.