Africa in the News: Kenyatta and the ICC, Escalating Violence in the Central African Republic

As part of our new blog, Africa in Focus, we will do a weekly news roundup every Friday for our readers on the major news stories related to Africa. The roundup will focus on the top stories of the week providing a balance of opinions, commentary and analysis. This week’s Africa news mainly focused on the Kenyan president’s scheduled appearance in The Hague and violence in the Central African Republic.

Kenyatta and the ICC

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is scheduled to be on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on November 12 for allegedly inciting violence in the country’s 2008 election.  However, Kenyatta’s supporters have actively sought to prevent his attendance in the trial.  This past week, his supporters argued before Kenya’s High Court that his presence in The Hague would create a power vacuum in the country and violate Kenya’s right to sovereignty.  The arguments were ultimately rejected by the High Court and the case was dismissed.  Other efforts underway include those by Western diplomats to secure a UN Security Council Resolution that would suspend the ICC trial

The consequences of President Kenyatta not appearing before the ICC are difficult to ascertain at this point.  A spokesperson for the ICC has said that that she cannot speculate as to what might happen in such a circumstance, although there are rumors that a warrant would be issued for the president’s arrest.

The African Union has condemned the ICC for its prosecution of the case and has called for an immediate cessation of it.  Rwandan President Paul Kagame has been particularly vocal.  He recently said that the ICC was “selective” in its pursuit of justice, choosing to forgo taking on cases against non-African countries.   (Mwangi Kimenyi, the Senior Fellow and Director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, has weighed in on the subject here.)

Escalating Violence in the CAR

According to the French Charity Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders), violence in the Central African Republic has recently increased, forcing some 30,000 people to flee their homes.  The rebel group Seleka is responsible for the bloodshed.  The country has been in a state of chaos since the rebel group’s leader, Michel Djotodia, ousted the country’s former President, Francois Bozize, in March. 

The French foreign minister has said that France will send more troops to the CAR by the end of the year.   There are already some 400 French troops stationed there, a figure which might rise to between 700 and 1,200 in the coming months.   There are also 1,400 African Union soldiers tasked with keeping the peace in the country – a number that was 2,200 less than what was promised by the continental organization.   A U.N. Resolution, sponsored by France and passed unanimously by the U.N. Security Council last week, promises to support a new AU peacekeeping force and demands that Djotodia hold elections in 2015, as previously negotiated.