Sovereignty as a principle of international law denotes the right to exercise, to the exclusion of any other state, the functions of a sovereign, as explained in Island of Palmas Arbitration case. A sovereign here meaning the modified Austinian notion of he whose pronouncements are habitually respected. In modern times, this would refer to the institutions of law which exercise state authority on behalf of the people.
In Kenya, our collective social contract is codified in a constitution, passed overwhelmingly by the Kenyan people in 2010. In the Kenyan Constitution, the sovereign authority is delegated to, the Parliament and legislative assemblies in the counties, the national executive and executive structures in the county and the judiciary and independent tribunals, per Article 1 (3) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.
Sovereignty is a sub-structural cardinal at the centre of international relations that every state, so legally recognized, should be respected and should not have its internal affairs and decisions interfered with by external interests. It would be naïve of anyone to say such a basic rule should be waived under any circumstances whatsoever.
Here, we must note that our Kenyan municipal institutions and we as a people have made decisions unique to our contexts and which could actually be inconceivable in other jurisdictions. Kenya’s constitution for instance, allows criminal proceedings to be started or continued against a sitting President in instances where immunity against such a crime is prohibited by a treaty to which Kenya is part of.
This is the constitutional basis that obligates President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto to continue cooperating with the ICC on the cases against them before the court.
The African Union, meeting in the Addis Ababa to celebrate its jubilee, I must really wonder what they were celebrating, passed a resolution urging either termination of the ICC cases or that it be referred to either the Kenyan “reformed” judiciary or the African Court of Justice.
The discussion was emotive, with the ICC standing accused of being a neocolonial tool to “humiliate African leaders.” My good friend Elliston Macharia quipped thereafter, he almost got convinced, but will when ICC goes for Jakaya Kikwete or Joyce Banda.” Perhaps the few discernible faces of the African aspirations.
The African Union is justified to debate any issue affecting Kenya. We are a continent with a shared common destiny, a similar history and problems. But one indubitable thing is that the rate of social and economic progress in African countries is extremely at differing paces that it seems the continent’s leadership is incapable of having any shared progressive position. They find root, common purpose and passion in retrogression, excusing their inability to deal with the rot and impunity in their countries by blaming external geopolitical interests.
Immunity against prosecution given to a sitting president has traditional been justified on the basis that it will bring disrepute to the institution of Presidency, who in all fairness is a states, first citizen.
Kenya’s progressive view, espoused in our constitution, allows suspicion that a president has done a crime under national or international to be a basis of their impeachment, Article 145 (b) of our Constitution. This notion is inconceivable to some countries where Presidents are deities. In particular the sponsor of the debate, Uganda is incapable of ever imagining such a law in its instruments.
In all fairness, a man who will close down a media house because it is about to expose an alleged scheme to install his son as president is incapable of understanding why a Kenyan President would go to the ICC.
It is however important to question the hypocrisy of Museveni as person when it comes to the ICC. On 12th July 2013, Moreno Ocampo visited Uganda and after a meeting the Ugandan government through its then minister of International Affairs Henry Okello issued a statement that Uganda was to arrest Sudanese President Omar El Bashir should he set foot in Uganda.
It is understood that this was a silent means of compelling Bashir to help in the arrest of the Northern Uganda warlord Joseph Kony believed to be hiding in Sudan then under the protection of Bashir. Indeed, even after ICC issued an arrest warrant against Kony, Museveni agreed in a cabinet resolution that if Kony was to agree to sign a peace accord, he would negotiate with the ICC to rescind the warrant. This is a bloated imagination of his influence, disregarding the fact that the ICC is a judicial process, perhaps operating differently from the patronized Ugandan judicial system.
The most chorused phrase in Addis Ababa was than Africa can solve her own problems, and that the ICC was a tool to humiliate African leaders.
First what informs universal jurisdiction on some things like Piracy and International Crimes is the knowledge that sometimes we Well let us look at the esteemed African leaders indicted by the ICC.
Omar El Bashir is accused of financing the Darfur conflict. Since the start of the conflict, it is estimated that close to 200,000-400,000 thousand people have lost their lives. Assuming that Bashir did not even participate in the conflict, what else can be a basis of illegitimacy of a government if such en masse atrocities are committed under a President’s watch? Others indicted from Sudan include, Bahr Abu Garda, Abdallah Banda and Ali Kushayb.
From Uganda, they include Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti and Dominic Ongwen all leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army. These people are accused of using child soldiers, holding women as sex slaves, torture, rape and other gross violations, is their indictment a humiliation of the African leadership.
An argument against the ICC has been that all its indictees are from the African Continent. The Rome statute has 120 state parties, with 33 cou
ntries being from the continent of Africa. The others are Asia-pacific, Eastern Europe, Northern and Latin America and the Caribbean
For the period when the Kenya post election violence occurred 2007, Africa accounted for 88% of the world’s conflict related deaths, followed by Asia pacific at 6% and Middle East 4%. If a continent accounts for 88% of conflict related deaths, why would it not account for 100% of persons indicted for international crimes?
This is absolutely possible regarding the fact that the ICC is a last resort mechanism that only becomes operational when local systems fail to take action.
What is even more important however, is for the African Union to know that the relationship between the ICC is not foreign. The ICC is a domestic court both under the Constitution of Kenya and the International Crimes Act No. 16 of 2008.
The Constitution passed by the Kenyan people in the direct exercise of their sovereign power to determine their own destiny. The Kenyan people, in their wisdom agreed in Article 2(5) and 2(6) of The Constitution of Kenya that all treaties ratified by Kenya will be part of our laws.
Our constitution, passed by ourselves, and not under the compulsion of neocolonial interests waived the immunity of our president for crimes under international law. Our local traditions as a Kenyan people disallow negotiations for settlement on crimes. This we enacted to ourselves through our sovereign legislature.
More importantly however, the African Union needs to understand the unique circumstances that led to the ICC process.
Kenya domesticated the Rome statute by an Act of Parliament in 2008 after the post election violence had occurred. Both the current President and his deputy had substantial influence in the August house. This domestication by law obligated the government to cooperate with the ICC; it makes it mandatory for the Kenyan government to enforce sentences issued by the ICC.
In the same 2008, the Kenyan parliament enacted a Truth Justice and Reconciliation Act to look into historical injustices and do a report which will be implemented. The TJRC Report, Volume 2A from page 511 makes damning allegations against President Kenyatta as regards the Kenya post election violence.
The report adopts the views of the Kenya National Human Rights commission the President may be linked to activities undertaken by the outlawed Mungiki sect during the period.
However, unlike other persons named, the report recommends that no other punitive process parallel to the ICC should be commenced against the President and the duo. This further reaffirms our sovereign commitment to the ICC process.
The African Union has no mandate whatsoever to purport to make a declaration that extensively usurps our local commitments. If this was urged by the executive, the Kenyan Executive was then attempting to use external pressures to circumvent our laws an act which is a constitutional nullity.
The African Union is interfering with our sovereignty; Our Parliament refused two attempts to set up local tribunals and opted for The Hague. As a matter of unquestionable fact, the Deputy President is on record having urged the ICC process to commence. If this case is fatally weak and founded on falsehoods, there can never be a more legitimate forum to ascertain that than a court of law.
The acts above were undertaken by a parliament in discharge of its constitutional mandate, a parliament that had balanced political preferences. Our Constitution which embodies our collective aspirations was passed by a free nation in celebration. We were aware, that we would suffer both the convenience and the inconvenience of that law.
As a people, Kenya must remain committed to the shared destiny of the African continent, but certainly, in the eyes of our laws, that quest does not involve collective support to impunity.
Sovereignty must remain what it is, that nations have a right to self determination, that acts of national institutions must be respected by our external allies. And that Museveni and Salva Kiir must stop believing that they can best interpret Kenya’s predicaments than our Parliament.
The AU does not need to worry about the shame that will befall Kenya when our President appears before the ICC. Many of us do, but we are also aware that our laws must be respected both when they further our interests and when they bring relative discomfort. Our President has undertaken to respect Kenya’s international obligations, and in his words, the ICC is a personal problem like many Kenyans have personal problems.
Why would a Union with Mali to deal with, Somalia to rebuild, Hunger to eradicate involve itself in the personal problems of three Kenyans?
But we all know what the AU’s record as to the rule of law is. One only needs to see the support it has given to its own African Court of Justice. An institution conceived decades ago which barely has a functioning secretariat talks of the union of a people committed to the rule of law.
By the way, the President of South Sudan talked of a reformed Kenyan judiciary, we cannot be surprised. With South Sudan still reporting abductions, torture and unlawful detentions, a Supreme Court that delivers its verdict before National TV must be the hallmark of reforms.
But as a nation we still have our problems. We still have Justices being taken before the judicial Service Commission; we still have a Supreme Court that misquotes our own constitution; we still have files that disappear in our registries and many still believe we have many steps to undertake before we say we have a reformed judiciary.