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Kenyatta to make official visit to UK amid ICC charges

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-05-06

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is expected to stand trial in July at the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity charges, will make his first official post-election trip to the UK on Sunday at the government’s invitation.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC), is expected to visit London on Sunday at Britain’s invitation for a conference on Somalia, and for "bilateral meetings" with British Prime Minister David Cameron, an official Kenyan statement read.

The three-day official visit will be his first trip to a Western capital since his election in March.

Britain and other countries said before his victory that, if he won, they would only have “essential contacts” with him because of the court case. Kenyatta goes on trial in July at The Hague-based ICC for crimes related to post-election violence in 2007-2008.

“Kenya is a vital partner on Somalia and we judge our contact according to the issue concerned,” a spokesman for Britain’s Foreign Office said.

Kenya was playing a crucial role in stabilising neighbouring Somalia and housing refugees, he added.

However, Kenyan rights activist GeorgeMorara said the move reflected the West’s desire to keep Kenya as a stable ally at the expense of other principles.

“It is a U-turn in the UK and the Western world’s approach to the whole issue of impunity,” Morara said.

Ally in fight against Islamist militancy

Western states view Kenya as an ally in their battle against Islamist militancy in the region and it has sent about 5,000 troops to Somalia as part of an African force that has driven back al Shabaab Islamist fighters.

The British spokesman said the decision to invite Kenyatta was taken in part because the president had committed to cooperating with the court in The Hague.

Britain’s high commissioner (ambassador) to Kenya, Christian Turner, whose remarks about essential contacts had angered Kenyatta’s backers in the former British colony, offered the invitation during a meeting with him on Wednesday.

After the election result, Western diplomats had privately indicated that they would take a pragmatic or “flexible” approach in assessing the level of contacts with Kenyatta, 51.

As well as concerns about alienating an ally, Western powers are wary of jeopardising trade ties with east Africa’s biggest economy and worry the diplomatic wrangle could open the way for China and other Asian states to extend their influence.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-05-06

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