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US Immunity at ICC annoys Nairobi
Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2005

30/5/2005 -

Officials in the Kenyan government reacted harshly today to the news that the US will suspend military aid until Nairobi decides to sign the bilateral agreement guaranteeing immunity for US citizens civilian and military before the International Criminal Court (ICC), in case they are charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide.

The main Kenyan daily 'Daily Nation', opened today's edition a long article entitled, "Kenyans tell Americans enough of This Blackmail". The article presents the reactions of representatives, ministers religious leaders to an article from the 'Sunday Nation' revealing that Washington has already suspended military aid, which will remain frozen until Nairobi signs the aforementioned bilateral accord. The US has already obtained such agreements using analogous tactics from tens of countries around the world.

The US, in fact, left behind a group of Kenyan officers ready to leave for a training course in the US while they have threatened to cancel the latest military aid package and joint training exercises. "We have to uphold our principles and resist the blackmail from the Americans," said the minister of the interior Newton Kulundu. "They can keep their dollars and we our dignity. Americans are not the only ones capable of training our military, perhaps it's time we started looking elsewhere, the EU, South Africa, China or even Japan," said parliamentary representative Muite.

The cabinet minister Kulundu then noted cases of violence committed by US military personnel against prisoners in their custody, in Iraq or in Afghanistan or in Guantanamo. "Precisely because America is a democracy it should be committed to follow international rules and abstain from applying two weights and two measurements". The Kenyan Anglican Church also exhorted the government to resist pressure from the US. "It's only a question of ethics and if someone has made a mistake it is right that they be handed over to the organisms entrusted to judge their behavior," said archbishop Benjamin Nimbi.

The reaction of the local Council of Imams, Sheikh Mohammed Dor, according to whom the decision to suspend military aid unless Kenya signed the immunity agreements "is an excellent example of the type of democracy that Washington intends to export around the world". "The US government continues to provoke and threaten the weakest governments while defending its own interests or those of its soldiers. For this reason we strongly uphold the Kenyan leadership asking it not to fold under pressure". "In any case, after all, US military aid is not so important; we have far more urgent problems tied to AIDS and the reduction of poverty. We can do without the military support," said Khelef Khailfa, head of the National Commission for Human Rights.

But Washington's behavior seems not to have pleased the US Ford automotive group in Kenya Ford Kenya that fears the 'blackmail' over the ICC risks jeopardizing the relationship between the 2 countries. Kenya ratified the Treaty of Rome last March becoming the 98th government to adhere to the ICC, the world court with jurisdiction on violations of humanitarian rights in countries unable or unwilling to refute persecuting such crimes. The US represents one of the main obstacles to the ICC, which refuses to recognize it, while trying with every means at their disposal to dissuade (and not just in the military context) adhering especially in terms of the poorest countries. Up to now, the US has convinced 60 or so governments to sign bilateral agreements ensuring the ICC has no jurisdiction over US citizens.

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