Kenya is quietly lobbying African countries to boycott the upcoming 23rd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka from November 15 to November 17, 2013.
Diplomatic sources told the Star that Kenya is pushing the move over the union’s failure to take a decisive stance against the prosecution of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto at the ICC.
Already, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia have been roped into the plan and may miss out in the meeting. South Sudan and Burundi which had launched bids to join Commonwealth have suspended their bids indefinitely.
The Commonwealth is comprised of 53 member states, mostly former colonies of the British Empire. The Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II heads it. Member states have no legal obligations to one another.
“Kenya is determined to force in a favorable and decisive action against the ICC trials against its president and deputy president. The Commonwealth miss would be part of this bigger agenda which the world must appreciate has been forced on Kenya by the court,” the source added.
Another government source confirmed: “It is almost a foregone conclusion by now that Kenya will not show up. And with it, East Africa and other African countries. By that time, the president is supposed to be at the ICC. The deputy president will be in charge here.”
The Commonwealth meeting would also be taking place three days after the start of Uhuru’s trial on November 12. The meeting will the first in 40 years in which Queen Elizabeth II will not attend owing to old age. She is 87.
Her son Prince Charles will instead represent her. The meeting is already facing several other boycotts over the choice of Sri Lanka as the host country. Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already stated that he would not attend in protest of Sri Lanka’s poor human rights record.
Harper has even gone ahead and threatened to stop contributing to the body if no action is taken against Sri Lanka. In the UK, parliament’s foreign affairs select committee has called on Prime Minister David Cameron to boycott it over same reasons as Canada. Cameron has however said he will go.
In India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is yet to make up his mind on whether he will attend or not. An Indian snub would even be more devastating to Commonwealth as it is the Commonwealth’s biggest member.
In Africa, Gambia, the home-country of ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda became the latest country to quit the Commonwealth early this month.
“The government has withdrawn its membership of the British Commonwealth and decided that the Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism,” it announced.
The revelations on Kenya’s offensive against the body comes barely a week after the African Union took a decisive action against the ICC by asking Uhuru to snub his trial in November. It also comes days after the court allowed Uhuru to skip most of the ICC sessions when his trial commences in November.
During the AU meeting in Addis Ababa, Uhuru gave a strong nationalistic speech in which he said Africa must “distrust the blandishments of those who have drunk out of the poisoned fountain of imperialism.”
He said described colonialism (which brings together the Commonwealth nations) as “most unjust of institutions.” He told of the irony of West preaching justice to “a people they have disenfranchised, exploited, taxed and brutalised.”
Uhuru said the philosophies, ideologies, structures and institutions that visited misery upon millions for centuries ultimately harm their perpetrators.
“Thus the imperial exploiter crashes into the pits of penury. The arrogant world police is crippled by shambolic domestic dysfunction. These are the spectacles of Western decline we are witnessing today,” he said in Addis.
The Kenyan snub on Commonwealth would also be in furtherance of Kenya’s approach to the 68th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in New York last month when Uhuru missed out citing ICC pressures.
At the time, Kenya justified the UNGA miss saying the President “cannot be out of the country at the same time as the deputy President.” Ruto’s trial at the ICC was ongoing.
“Owing to these developments, Kenya will for the first time since our independence 50 years ago, not be represented at a political level during the High Level Week of the United Nations General Assembly that the President was scheduled to attend from 23rd to 27th September 2013,” a State House statement announced ahead of the meeting.
The snub, in wording and tone, was a silent protest to the failure of UN Security Council to defer the case against the president. (The Star)