- Created on 05 September 2013
In this Saturday, March 2, 2013 file photo, then Kenyan Presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, left, and his running mate William Ruto, right, talk together at the final election rally of Kenyatta's The National Alliance party at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, Kenya. Kenya's parliament began action Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013 to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, just before the country's President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto face trial at The Hague for allegedly inciting post-election violence, although even if Kenya formally withdraws from the Rome Statute the country is still obligated to cooperate with the court for the two trials. (AP Photo / Ben Curtis, File)
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya's parliament on Thursday passed a motion to withdraw from the International Criminal Court just before the country's president and deputy president face trial at The Hague for allegedly orchestrating postelection violence more than five years ago.
Citing the fact that the United States and other world powers are not members, the majority leader of Kenya's parliament on Thursday argued that Kenya should withdraw from the statute that created the ICC.
Adan Duale told a special session of Kenya's parliament that U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both argued against the United States becoming a party to the Rome Statute, which regulates prosecutions for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.
A voice vote on the motion easily passed after members of the opposition party walked out, but Kenya can only withdraw from the ICC by formal notification to the United Nations Secretary-General by the government, not parliament.
Clinton and Bush, Duale said, refused to join the ICC in order to protect U.S. citizens and soldiers from potential politically-motivated prosecutions.
"Let us protect our citizens. Let us defend the sovereignty of the nation of Kenya," Duale said.
The Kenyan debate is a reaction to the start next week of the trial at The Hague of Deputy President William Ruto. Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta face charges of crimes against humanity for allegedly helping to orchestrate postelection violence in 2007-08 that killed more than 1,000 people.
Kenyatta, who was elected president earlier this year, faces trial in November. Both leaders have said they will cooperate with the court.
Parliament has voted to withdraw before, but the executive branch took no action. The Rome Statute says a "state party" may withdraw with written notification to the U.N.'s secretary-general; withdrawal takes effect one year later.
A withdrawal does not affect a state's obligation to cooperate with criminal investigations and proceedings already underway. If Kenya were to withdraw, it would be the first nation to do so.
"Kenya gains no legal advantage by withdrawing from the ICC," said William Pace and official with the Coalition for the ICC. "In the long run, the promoters of this action are hurting the reputation of Kenya as a nation that supports international human rights and the rule of law."
Kenyatta's and Ruto's indictments led the U.S. and European powers like the U.K. to openly advocate for the two leaders' electoral defeat. When the two were declared the winners in March's election with 50.03 percent of the vote, both countries gave only lukewarm congratulations. However, U.S. and U.K. relations with Kenya since then have appeared to be at least quasi-normal, though when President Barack Obama embarked on a tour of Africa in June and July he did not visit Kenya, his father's home country.
The International Criminal Court has only indicted Africans, a fact that has opened the court to severe criticism on the continent. The chairman of the African Union earlier this year said that ICC prosecutions "have degenerated into some kind of race hunt."
The ICC stepped in to investigate Kenya's postelection violence after the country failed to prosecute any of the organizers of the attacks. Kenya suffered three months of ethnic attacks with machetes and guns in running battles that severely harmed the country's reputation as a stable democracy and a safe tourist destination.
Elizabeth Evenson, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Belgium, said every time the ICC process moves forward, Kenya's political establishment "scrambles to throw up roadblocks. ... Today's debate is more of the same."
- Created on 04 September 2013
Mali's new president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, is sworn in at an official ceremony in Bamako, Mali, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. Keita took the oath of office Wednesday, promising to help unify the country after a rebellion, a coup and an Islamic insurgency plunged the long democratic nation into near ruin.(AP Photo / Harouna Traore)
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) -- Mali's new president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita took the oath of office Wednesday, promising to help unify the country after a rebellion, a coup and an Islamic insurgency plunged what was one of West Africa's most stable democracies into near ruin.
Keita emerged as the overwhelming victor of the first election held since mutinous soldiers overthrew longtime President Amadou Toumani Toure in March 2012. In the aftermath, al-Qaida-linked jihadists seized power across northern Mali and were only ousted by a French-led military offensive earlier this year.
After taking the oath of office in front of an enormous Malian flag, Keita thanked the international community for its support in retaking the north from the hands of extremists and vowed to prioritize national unity.
"I swear before God and the Malian people to loyally protect the republican regime, to fulfill my functions in the best interest of the people, to preserve democratic gains, to protect national unity, the independence of the homeland and Mali's territorial integrity," Keita said.
While he officially became Mali's president on Wednesday, an inauguration celebration is to take place on Sept. 19. World leaders, including French President Francois Hollande, are expected to take part.
Mali's constitution requires that the swearing-in ceremony takes place two weeks after official results are released.
Keita won Mali's Aug. 11 presidential runoff with 77.6 percent of the vote. His opponent, Soumaila Cisse, conceded defeat even before those results were announced.
Many voters said they thought Keita was best equipped from an initial field of 28 candidates to reunite the nation after more than a year of turmoil. Once he names his government, though, he will have only two months to resume talks with the northern Tuareg rebel group known as the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, the name they call their homeland.
In addition to the simmering rebellion in the north, Keita also faces the tasks of tackling corruption and ethnic tensions, and rebuilding the country's economy.
And even as he tries to move past Mali's coup era, there are lingering ghosts: The coup leader Amadou Sanogo was recently promoted from captain to four-star general, making him the highest-ranking military official even after the recent democratic election.
"After a deeply troubling period, Mali stands at a crossroads," said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. "President Keita's actions - or inactions - could usher in greater respect for human rights or a return to the problems that caused Mali's near-collapse last year."
- Created on 04 September 2013
MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) -- Liberia has rejected calls to release an editor jailed last month for reporting on the results of an official graft investigation.
The case also shines a spotlight on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize winner whose government four years ago filed a lawsuit that led to another newspaper's closure.
Rodney Sieh, publisher and editor of the independent newspaper FrontPageAfrica, was arrested Aug. 21 after failing to pay $1.5 million in damages awarded to former Agriculture Minister Chris Toe. In 2010, Sieh's newspaper published several articles about findings by the country's anti-corruption watchdog that the ministry could not account for millions of dollars.
Two days after Sieh's arrest, law enforcement closed the paper's offices. Sieh then launched a hunger strike and was hospitalized last week with malaria.
Despite calls by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders for Sirleaf to intervene on Sieh's behalf, Liberia's information ministry said Tuesday that the verdict against Sieh should be respected.
Sirleaf last year became the second African head of state to sign the Declaration of Table Mountain, which calls for the Africa-wide repeal of defamation and "insult" laws.
Yet multiple libel convictions have been handed down since she came to power in 2006, and no newspaper has won a libel case during that time, according to the Press Union of Liberia. A lawsuit filed by Sirleaf's office in 2009 for $5 million against the New Broom newspaper led to that paper's closure.
Former agriculture minister Toe has denied allegations of wrongdoing, though he resigned from his position and was never put on trial. He has said the newspaper's reports were libelous because he was never convicted, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
In a letter to Sirleaf on Monday, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said the case against Sieh was flawed and asked the government to facilitate his release.
"We believe the punishment meted out against FrontPageAfrica is disproportionate and that the case is tainted with political undertones," Simon said.
The $1.5 million damages award is more than 30 times the yearly operating budget for FrontPageAfrica, according to Sieh, who in a New York Times op-ed over the weekend said the case was a clear attempt to silence Liberia's most aggressive and ambitious newspaper.
Sieh also wrote that two jurors claimed they were paid to find him guilty.
"So long as Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf's advisers can tell the courts how to rule, the government will continue to intimidate the press at home while maintaining an undeserved positive image abroad," Sieh said.
The information ministry faulted Sieh for not appealing the verdict, though Sieh has said the process is prohibitively expensive.
Sirleaf has not addressed the case herself. Wade Williams, an editor at FrontPageAfrica who has been running the paper in Sieh's absence, said she suspected many government officials would be happy to see the paper shut down.
"They're all using their influence to get to Rodney, punishing him for exposing them over the years," Williams said. "That's why (Sirleaf's) not saying anything. She herself has not been happy with FrontPageAfrica for some time now."
The newspaper has continued to publish online even though its offices remain closed and an important source of revenue - print advertisements - has dried up.
Toe, the former agriculture minister who brought the libel case, said Tuesday he had been "injured" by FrontPageAfrica's coverage but that he was open to talks with Sieh's lawyers.
Williams, however, said she questioned what purpose the talks might serve. "I don't think there should be any negotiation on the part of a newspaper reporting on public officials just to appease them," she said. "It will be a sign of weakness on the part of the media."
- Created on 03 September 2013
JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- South Africa's president said Tuesday that he was pleased Nelson Mandela had gone home from a hospital, saying it indicated the progress that the anti-apartheid leader had made even though he remains in critical condition.
An ambulance returned 95-year-old Mandela to his Johannesburg house on Sunday, and the office of President Jacob Zuma said he will receive the same level of care there that he did in the hospital, administered by the same doctors.
"He remains critical but stable, responding to treatment," Zuma said in a meeting with journalists in Pretoria, the South African capital. "I think we feel very good that he reached a point where the doctors who were treating him felt he could now leave the hospital to his home, which indicates the progress he had made."
Zuma also said: "We acknowledge that he is old and that he's not well but we are very happy that he's gone home, that he's still with us."
Mandela was admitted to the hospital on June 8 for what the government described as a recurring lung infection. Legal papers filed by his family said he was on life support.
On Tuesday, the former surgeon general of South Africa's military, Vejay Ramlakan, visited Mandela's home, the South African Press Association reported. Ramlakan was often seen arriving at the hospital in Pretoria during Mandela's stay there.
Mandela has been treated by a large medical team from the military, academia, the private sector and other public health sectors, according to Zuma's office.
Some residents in Mandela's hometown of Qunu, in the Eastern Cape province, said Mandela should return to their rural area, where he had lived in recent years until ill health compelled authorities to fly him to Johannesburg so he could be near the best available medical care.
Mama Madlomo, an 84-year-old relative of the Mandela clan, said the former president should go back to Qunu so that he can be close to his ancestors. Mandela's three deceased children, who are buried there, were the subject of a recent family feud over the location of their graves.
Another resident in Qunu, Nosithile Sodlongwane, was happy that Mandela had been discharged from the hospital.
"God has answered our prayers and we need him even if it's for a short while," she said.
Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is viewed around the world as a powerful figure of reconciliation. Despite being jailed for his prominent role in opposing white racist rule, Mandela was seemingly free of rancor on his release in 1990 after 27 years in prison.
He became a unifying leader who led South Africa through a delicate transition to all-race elections that propelled him to the presidency in 1994.