US restates stance on Uhuru and Ruto
The top US diplomat for African Affairs on Thursday sent a veiled message that the election of the Jubilee flag bearer as president could be received negatively by the United States.
However, US Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson did not specifically say that the US-Kenya relations would suffer if the Jubilee team won the presidential election.
He also refrained from mentioning the two leaders who are facing charges of crimes against humanity at The Hague.
Mr Carson’s caution came just two days after a video statement on Kenya by President Barack Obama was welcomed by the Jubilee presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and running mate William Ruto as an indication that the US government had no objections to their taking power.
The clarification comes as Tanzania declared it was ready to host the International Criminal Court trials of the two Jubilee leaders and former Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura and journalist Joshua arap Sang.
During a tele-conference with reporters, Mr Carson said: “We believe individuals accused of crimes against humanity should go before the courts to prove their innocence or suffer the consequences of the judgements if they are found guilty,” he stated.
Even though the US is not a member of The Hague based court, he declared that they support its mission on crimes against humanity.
“The US is not a signatory to the Rome statute, but we recognise what the ICC is doing and we support it,” he said.
The statement by Mr Carson, a former US ambassador to Kenya, follows President Obama’s declaration that Washington was not supporting any candidate and would respect the verdict of Kenyans in next month’s elections.
Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto had rushed to laud the US position, which their camp interpreted as backtracking on a presumed threat to impose sanctions if the two were elected.
However, the veteran diplomat warned five times in response to questions referring to Mr Kenyatta that “choices have consequences”. He declined to elaborate.
Mr Carson suggested that the choices Kenyans make in the election will have repercussions internationally.
Asked about US attitudes toward Mr Kenyatta specifically, he said his country would not compel Kenyans to elect certain candidates in office.
He added: “Individuals have histories, individuals have images, and individuals have reputations. When they are selected to lead their nations, those images, histories and reputations go along with them.”
Mr Carson was also asked whether the US might adopt an arm’s-length posture toward a Kenya led by Mr Kenyatta as it has done in the case of Sudan, which is led by an ICC indictee, Omar Bashir.
He acknowledged that the US has a policy of not engaging with President Bashir and other Sudanese who have been charged but not yet tried by the ICC, but argued that sanctions against Sudan are a result of the country’s mishandling of the situation in Darfur.
Mr Carson drew a distinction between Sudan and Kenya, saying, “I don’t want to make a comparison with Sudan in its totality because Sudan is a special case in many ways.”
He noted that the US has “rigid and tough sanctions” in place against Sudan due to its government’s actions in the Darfur region.
Sudan is also on the US list of countries that support international terrorism, Ambassador Carson said.
“None of that applies to Kenya,” he emphasised.
He sought throughout his 30-minute conference call from Washington to reinforce President Obama’s comments in a videotaped message on Wednesday to the effect that the US does not favour any candidate in Kenya’s elections.
But he added that Kenya’s position in the Horn of Africa makes it vital for the US to emphasize on the need to have peaceful elections.
In addition, the envoy told reporters his country had already pumped into Kenya’s electoral system about $35 million (about Sh3 billion) since 2010 to help prepare the electoral systems for the elections and its aftermath.
In that respect, he demanded that all presidential candidates in Kenya should sign a petition in public to renounce violence.
The US is keen to see Kenya’s elections done in peace because the country is a key ally in the region. The US has the largest diplomatic establishment on the African continent in Nairobi.
In Tanzania, Attorney-General Frederick Werema said they “would be honoured” to host the trials at the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, whose mandate will end soon.
“It will be a great honour for Tanzania to handle the cases. In fact if I received the request from The Hague today I will expedite it and convince all my colleagues involved in the government to accept the request,” he said in the Tanzanian town of Dodoma.
A member of the Rwanda tribunal in Arusha has said they are ready to handle the cases of the four Kenyans, but the UN and the Tanzanian government must give a go ahead.
Mr Danford Mpumilwa, the public relations officer, said the cases could be prosecuted by the tribunal because it is well equipped.
But Mr Werema said the Tanzanian government was yet to receive any requests either from the suspects or from The Hague to have the cases transferred to Arusha.
“The Hague, and not the suspects, must initiate the process.”
Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto’s defence teams have asked the ICC to transfer the cases to the Arusha-based court to reduce costs and stop disrupting their families.
ICC presiding judge Sang-Hyun Song has instructed all parties to the two cases to make their submissions regarding the applications before he makes a ruling.
Reports by Kevin J Kelley, Aggrey Mutambo and The Citizen writers