Kenyatta and Ruto were elected in the first round of presidential elections in March, despite crimes against humanity accusations against them. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda accuses them of having played a key role in post-election violence in 2007-2008 in their country.
Speaking at the end of the AU summit on Monday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn accused the ICC of targeting Africans. He said the ICC had been formed more than a decade ago to end the culture of impunity, but "now the process has degenerated into some kind of racial hunt".
The Ethiopian Prime Minister, who chairs the AU, said African leaders were concerned that out of those indicted by the ICC, "99% are Africans". "This shows something is flawed within the system of the ICC and we object to that," he said.
AU Commission President Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa said that now Kenya has introduced reforms to its justice system, Kenyan courts should be allowed to take the ICC cases.
President Kenyatta’s trial is due to start before the ICC on July 9. Ruto’s case was due to start this month but has been postponed, with a new date still to be set. The two men have so far appeared voluntarily before the court. Bensouda has threatened to issue arrest warrants against them if they do not continue to do so.
However, in March Bensouda had to drop charges against another prominent Kenyan, former Cabinet Secretary Francis Muthaura, saying a key witness had recanted evidence while others were “too afraid to testify for the prosecution”.
The AU resolution cannot force any action from the ICC. Only the UN Security Council can request a suspension – although not a withdrawal -- of ICC procedures.
“In any case, Bensouda’s task will be a tough one,” one Kenyan lawyer who did not wish to be named commented to Hirondelle. “It won’t be easy to convince Kenyan witnesses to come and testify against their democratically elected President and Vice-President.”