Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has confirmed during a speech in front of the parliament that he will be appearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on October 8.
Uhuru Kenyatta told parliament that his deputy, William Ruto, would be in charge during his absence.
The president faces charges of organizing ethnic massacres that killed 1,200 people after the 2007 elections – something he denies.
The October 8 hearing is due to set a date for his trial to begin.
The ICC had summoned Uhuru Kenyatta to appear to explain allegations that evidence against him had been withheld.
In September, the court postponed the trial after prosecutors said the Kenyan government had failed to deliver key documents. Witnesses for the prosecution have withdrawn from the case.
Dozens of Kenyan lawmakers are expected to travel to The Hague to back Uhuru Kenyatta at the status hearing.
Uhuru Kenyatta said he would be going to The Hague in a personal capacity – not as president – so as not to compromise the sovereignty of Kenya’s 40 million people.
“To protect the sovereignty of the Kenyan republic, I now take the extraordinary and unprecedented step of evoking article 1473 of the constitution and I will shortly issue the legal notice necessary to appoint honourable William Ruto, the deputy president, as acting president while I attend the status conference at The Hague in the Netherlands,” he said.
Uhuru Kenyatta again stressed his innocence: “I wish to reiterate here for all that my conscience is clear, has been clear and will remain forever clear that I am innocent of all the accusations that have been leveled against me.
“After all this, the prosecutor of the ICC has since last December and as recently as last month, admitted to the judges that the available evidence is insufficient to prove alleged criminal responsibility beyond reasonable doubt.”
There had been growing doubts as to whether Uhuru Kenyatta would become the first sitting president to attend the court. He had already been to the ICC before becoming president in 2013.
Uhuru Kenyatta was a close ally of President Mwai Kibaki, who was declared the winner of the 2007 election. Mwai Kibaki’s rival, Raila Odinga, claimed the poll was marred by fraud.
The dispute took on an ethnic dimension, pitting members of the Kikuyu ethnic group of Uhuru Kenyatta and Mwai Kibaki against other communities. Uhuru Kenyatta is accused of organising an ethnic Kikuyu gang, the Mungiki sect, to attack rival groups.
Uhuru Kenyatta faces five charges relating to the ethnic massacres – the worst violence in Kenya since independence in 1963. Tens of thousands of people were displaced and Kenya’s reputation for stability was tarnished.
Vice-President WSilliam Ruto also faces charges at The Hague, but he was on Raila Odinga’s side during the violence. He also denies the charges.
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