, NAIROBI, May 3 – Britain has invited Kenya’s new president to London next week in what will be the first trip outside Africa for the leader who is facing an international trial for crimes against humanity, officials said Friday.
The invitation for Uhuru Kenyatta to attend a conference on Somalia in London on Tuesday – co-hosted by both Britain and Somalia – marks a notable shift in attitude by Britain.
London, like the rest of the European Union and other Western powers, has a policy of only “essential contact” with anyone charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
President Kenyatta, voted into power in March 4 elections, is to go on trial in July at The Hague-based ICC for crimes against humanity related to post-election violence in 2007-2008.
Britain’s high commissioner to Kenya Christian Turner delivered a letter of invitation to Kenyatta when they met on Wednesday, high commission spokesman John Bradshaw said.
“Kenya plays a vital role on Somalia, having nearly 5,000 troops in Somalia and hosting more Somali refugees than any other nation,” the commission said in a statement.
Kenyatta and Turner also “discussed how the two countries would work together not only on the shared agendas of regional security and stability, but also prosperity and development,” it added, saying London wanted to support Nairobi in its aims to double UK-Kenya trade.
While Kenyatta’s acceptance has not been confirmed, diplomatic sources said he was expected to attend.
Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, who also faces trial at the ICC, have both said they will cooperate fully with the court. They deny the charges against them.