New York - An African bid to postpone the International
Criminal Court trials of Kenya's president and his deputy failed at the United
Nations on Friday, which Kenya called a humiliation for Africa.
The African Union had requested that the UN Security Council
defer the cases against Uhuru Kenyatta and his number two, William Ruto, for
one year to allow them to deal with the aftermath of an attack by al
Qaeda-linked Somali militants.
But the 15-member Security Council was split - seven
members, including Russia and China, voted in favour, and eight abstained,
including France, the United States and Britain. Resolutions need nine votes
and no vetoes to pass. Britain, France, the United States, China and Russia
hold veto powers.
Kenya, a key partner in the West's fight against militant
Islam in Somalia, said the outcome highlighted the need for reform of the
security council to prevent a few powerful nations imposing their will on the
Kenyatta and Ruto are accused of fomenting ethnic violence
after Kenya's 2007 elections, in which 1 200 people died. Both deny the charges
and have tried to have the cases adjourned or halted. Ruto's trial began last
month, while Kenyatta's trial is due to start on 5 February after being delayed
for a third time.
In a statement, Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said
those who abstained showed "clear cowardice in the face of a critical
The African Union had made its request to the Security
Council with the stability and security of the continent in mind, the ministry
"But the Security Council has failed to do this and
humiliated the continent and its leadership," it said.
Justice for the victims
At least 67 people were killed in the Nairobi mall attack in
September, the worst attack on Kenyan soil since al Qaeda bombed the US Embassy
Rwandan UN Ambassador Eugene Gasana, who led the push for a
resolution, said: "Let it be written today in history that the Security
Council failed Kenya and Africa on this issue."
The Kenyan cases have stirred an African backlash against
the ICC Court and sparked claims that the Security Council does not take Africa
African states put the resolution to a vote knowing it would
"It has been insinuated that not joining the vote that favours
the resolution is somehow an expression of ill will towards the African
Union," said Guatemalan UN Ambassador Gert Rosenthal. "We find this
view frankly offensive."
British UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant noted that the United
Nations supports over 100 000 peacekeepers in Africa.
Western and Latin American council members believe the
African concerns should be dealt with at the ICC and at a meeting this month of
the Assembly of States Parties, which is made up of the 122 court members.
An Ipsos Synovate poll of 2 060 Kenyans showed on Thursday
that 42% believe the ICC cases should continue, two percent thought they should
be deferred, while almost a third wanted the trials dropped completely.
"We believe that justice for the victims of that
violence is critical to the country's long-term peace and security. It is
incumbent on us all to support accountability for those responsible for crimes
against humanity," US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told
Sad and tragic
Concerns had been raised by some council members that a
deferral could lead to impunity. But Ethiopia's U.N. Ambassador Tekeda Alemu
said the notion Africa tolerated impunity was the mantra of those who treated
Africans as unequals. Ethiopia is currently chair of the African Union.
The Security Council can defer ICC action for one year under
Article 16 of the Rome Statute that established The Hague-based court a decade
Seven of the members who abstained are ICC members - France,
Britain, Guatemala, Argentina, South Korea, Australia and Luxembourg. The
United States is not a member. The seven who voted yes are not court members -
China, Russia, Togo, Azerbaijan, Rwanda, Morocco and Pakistan.
Kenyan UN Ambassador Macharia Kamau said after the vote that
Africa's engagement at the Security Council had been met with "derision,
suspicion, impatience and even irritation" and that Africa now believed
that the body was not the destination for solving complex and fluid security
and political problems.
"At every turn the boogie man of impunity and
dictatorship is dragged out to devastating effect. This is wrong, and it is
unfair, as it is sad and tragic," Kamau said.
The UN Security Council turned down a previous deferral
request by Kenya in 2011 and rejected a request in May for the cases to be
terminated because the council had no such power.