Uhuru to leave for SA as Ruto jets in to run State affairs

President Uhuru Kenyatta shares a word with his deputy William Ruto at a past function. Photo/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Mr Ruto’s excusal came just a day after the chamber rejected Joshua Sang’s application to be allowed to attend his daughter’s graduation on Friday.
  • Lead trial lawyer Anton Steynberg said the prosecution was in a position to line up to three witnesses during that period.
  • Mr Karim Khan for the deputy president went as far as suggesting that the chamber was treating his client’s case as a “filler”.

President Uhuru Kenyatta heads to South Africa on a three-day official visit as talks to defer the Kenya ICC cases continue at the United Nations.

The President’s expected absence from Monday necessitated the ICC to grant his deputy William Ruto leave from the court for a week just two days after being in court in person. Mr Ruto will be in charge of government affairs in the President’s absence until Wednesday.

The Trial Chamber V (a) also allowed Mr Ruto to miss the sittings on Thursday and Friday as he will be chairing a refugee and drought meeting in Nairobi.

Presiding judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said that the decision to grant the request was unanimous. “The Chamber has deliberated on the Ruto request,” Mr Osuji said on Friday. “The chamber unanimously grants the request,” the judge said.

The court will give the formal reasons on Monday. Mr Ruto’s excusal came just a day after the chamber rejected Joshua Sang’s application to be allowed to attend his daughter’s graduation on Friday.

Kenya has been leading a diplomatic onslaught at the UN to have the cases against President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto deferred for at least a year, with the possibility of extension.

The deferral request is supported by the African Union on the basis of the country’s role in the fight against terrorism in the region. Kenya and the AU also cite the strides the country has made in constitutional and institutional reforms since the 2007 election chaos to prove its case for a deferral.

Meanwhile, the ICC is contemplating carrying on with the proceedings against Mr Ruto and Mr Sang after President Kenyatta’s case was delayed until February next year.

“Kenyatta case has now been adjourned over to February. We need to discuss the implication of that before we adjourn this session whether we can use the opportunity in the Ruto case,” judge Osuji said Friday.

The prosecution and the victims legal representative have welcomed the chamber’s move, asking that the parties only get about two weeks break from Friday November 8. In other words, they were pointing at the possibility of having the trials resume at least by November 18 until December 13 when the court takes its winter recess.

Lead trial lawyer Anton Steynberg said the prosecution was in a position to line up to three witnesses during that period.

“It should be logistically possible to line up three short witnesses before the winter recess,” said Mr Steynberg.

However, the defence teams of Mr Ruto and Mr Sang have opposed the resumption of the trials anytime this year, arguing that that would be prejudicial to their clients.

Mr Karim Khan for the deputy president went as far as suggesting that the chamber was treating his client’s case as a “filler”.

Both the defence teams and the prosecution are however agreed that trials resume on January 13 while the victims wanted the resumption set for January 6. The chamber has yet to communicate its decision.

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