, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 29 – The International Criminal Court (ICC) question and the recent Ebola crisis in West Africa are top on the agenda as the 24th Ordinary Session of the African Union opens in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Friday.
A strong Kenyan delegation led by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed is already in Addis Ababa to push the Kenyan agenda on ICC.
The Cabinet Secretary said Kenya has strongly pushed for a comprehensive overhaul of the Rome Statute to ensure that its mechanisms duly recognise the African realities and socio-political context with regard to conflict resolution, justice, accountability and political stability.
And because these efforts did not succeed largely because of resistance by Western interests, Mohamed said Kenya has indicated that it will associate itself with the initiative to establish an African International Justice mechanism that delivers African solutions to African problems.
The CS said the mechanism is nearly complete as proposed during the 23rd Ordinary Session of the AU summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea last June and developed under the Malabo protocol. Kenya has already signed and ratified the proposed African mechanism and the Kenyan team will be pushing for this agenda at the summit.
President Uhuru Kenyatta leaves the country Thursday to join other African leaders for the two day Heads of State and government of the African Union summit that takes place at the AU head-quarters in Addis Ababa.
President Kenyatta will be accompanied by the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta who will be attending the Organisation of African First Ladies Against Aids (OAFLA) General Assembly on the sidelines of the AU.
The Foreign Affairs CS said Kenya believes in an African solution because The Hague experience has not achieved much.
“We (Africans) have better ways to develop our own judicial mechanisms. We need to build capacity for own our mechanisms” said Mohamed when she briefed journalists at the AU headquarters.
During the 23rd Ordinary Session of the AU Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in June last year, the African leaders developed the Malabo protocol which among other issues agreed on amendments to the protocol on the statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights to handle international matters currently under the ICC.
The African leaders attending the Malabo summit called on member states to speedily sign and ratify the African Court legal instrument to enable the continental court acquire the necessary powers to handle all high-level judicial-criminal cases related to Africa.
President Yoweri Museveni on Jamhuri Day celebrations in Kenya last year threatened to move a motion during the current AU summit for African states to move out of the Rome Statute en-masse.
Since then, the criminal case facing President Kenyatta has been dropped at the ICC for lack of evidence while that facing Deputy President William Ruto and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang is ongoing at the Hague, Netherlands.
The entire world will be watching to see how the AU will handle the ICC agenda and whether the continent will take such a drastic move to exit the Rome Statute.
The AU Assembly is a semi-annual meeting of the heads of states and government where most important decisions of the 53-member States are made. The AU Assembly brings together all the African States except Morocco which is not a member of the union.
The theme of this year’s summit is: “2015 Year of women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063.” Preparatory meetings ahead of the Heads of States summit have been going on in Addis Ababa since January 23.
Other key issues lined for discussion include the establishment of the African Centre for Disease control and prevention (viewed against the recent Ebola crisis), peace and security in Africa and alternative sources of financing the African Union.
Besides the AU and IGAD meetings, President Kenyatta is also expected to hold a series of bilateral meetings with other leaders including the UN Secretary General on matters of mutual interest.
Other leaders scheduled to hold talks with President Kenyatta include FAO Director Jose Graziano Da Silva.