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Uhuru leaves for Hague status conference

07 October 2014, 11:43

Nairobi - President Uhuru Kenyatta flew out of Kenya Tuesday to attend a hearing at the International Criminal Court, where he will become the first sitting president to appear before the chamber.

Kenyatta, who has temporarily handed power to his deputy to "protect the sovereignty" of the east African country, waved to supporters at the airport in Nairobi in a relatively low-key early morning departure, an AFP reporter said.

He has travelled as a "private" citizen on a regular flight to Amsterdam, accompanied by a small delegation including his wife and daughter, as well as six MPs and three ministers.

He is due to attend a "status conference" hearing on Wednesday at The Hague-based ICC, after prosecutors asked for an indefinite delay until Nairobi handed over documents they believe could clinch their case.

Kenyatta, 52, faces five counts at the ICC over his alleged role in masterminding post-election violence in 2007 and 2008 that left 1,200 people dead and 600,000 displaced.

The Kenyan leader has appeared at the ICC before, but not since he was elected president in March 2013.

Also read: Ruto officially takes over State House

Bitter memories are still fresh from 2007, when elections escalated into ethnic conflict, for which Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto were charged with crimes against humanity. Both reject the charges.

On Monday Kenyatta told parliament he had taken the "unprecedented" move to temporarily hand power over to Ruto -- whose trial at the ICC has already begun.

Kenya's newspapers said they backed his travel to the ICC, pointing that to defy international orders could have resulted in repercussions for the whole country.

"He saw the sense in abiding by the resolution of the trial judges, because doing anything to the contrary would have been disastrous for him and the country," the Daily Nation's editorial read Tuesday.

"By choosing to play along, the president has demonstrated that he has nothing to hide," The Standard newspaper read.

Kenya's post-electoral unrest shattered the east African country's image as a beacon of regional stability in late 2007, when opposition chief Raila Odinga accused then president Mwai Kibaki of rigging his way back to power.

What began as political riots quickly turned into ethnic killings, plunging Kenya into its worst wave of unrest since independence in 1963.

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