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Will Uhuru go to the Hague after ICC summon?

20 September 2014, 09:53 William Korir

Nairobi - After it emerged that President Uhuru Kenyatta had been called to head to the Hague by the International Criminal Court ICC, the question is, will he avail himself?

The ICC said Friday it had summoned President Kenyatta to appear before the tribunal over charges his government has withheld documents requested by prosecutors preparing his crimes against humanity trial.

Kenyatta, who faces five counts at the ICC over his alleged role in masterminding election-related violence in 2007-2008, was ordered to appear on October 8, the Hague-based court said in a statement.

It would be the first time Kenyatta has appeared in court, as he has repeatedly argued he needs to remain in Kenya to fight militants from the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab group, and manage state affairs.

The ICC said discussion with Kenyatta, and another hearing a day earlier with a Nairobi representative, would focus on "the status of cooperation between the prosecution and the Kenyan government and issues raised in the prosecution's notice of 5 September 2014".

Read also: ICC again delays Uhuru trial

"A representative of the Kenyan government is invited to attend the first status conference and Mr Kenyatta is required to be present at the second status conference," it said.

And after the announcement was made, the question turned to, will he go there?

The president has fought hard previously to ensure he does not appear before the court, with the country countering efforts to have him there, including heading to the African Union and using the United Nations Security Council to try avail his charges on grounds he is a sitting president.

Political analyst Michael Njenga believes that it will be hard to see Uhuru go to the Hague and that likely a compromise will be reached.

" It is likely that a compromise will be reached between the two sides on his appearance before the court in my view ", he said.

" The president has already appeared via video link previously and I think that if absolutely necessary, he will end up doing the same.

" You see, if he goes now after all the battles that the country has instituted to ensure he does not appear there, it will mean that there has been wasted effort and he will look to be compromised, which I'm sure his team will work hard to prevent, he added.

Read also: Uhuru cleans up Kibera

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked judges to postpone the trial indefinitely, blaming Kenyan authorities for blocking access to key evidence that could show Kenyatta had bankrolled the post-election ethnic violence in which 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 others were displaced.

Without those documents, she said, there was insufficient grounds to prosecute the powerful East African leader, prompting his lawyers again to call for the case to be dropped.

Nairobi has rejected claims it has stonewalled the ICC in refusing to hand over the documents, including company records, bank statements, records of land transfers, tax returns, phone records and foreign exchange records.

The ICC also formally postponed the latest opening date -- October 7 -- for Kenyatta's repeatedly delayed trial.

The trial of rival-turned-partner, Kenyan Vice President William Ruto, who faces similar charges -- opened in the Hague in September 2013.

Lawyers for victims of the 2007-2008 violence have lambasted Nairobi authorities for a "deliberate policy of obstruction", while Amnesty International has highlighted the desperation of victims who were wounded and lost property during the unrest.

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