Washington faces Kenya dilemma

(By Deutsche Welle) Kenya has elected a president accused of crimes against humanity by the ICC. The US now walks a tightrope in its relations with Nairobi, a key ally in the war against Islamist militants in Somalia.

Should Uhuru Kenyatta survive a legal challenge by his defeated opponent and assume office as Kenya’s fourth president, his term will begin with a trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity. Kenyatta is accused of facilitating murder, deportation, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts. His vice president, William Ruto, faces similar charges.

Washington has followed the election with concern. Nairobi is a key player in the US-backed fight against al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants in neighboring Somalia. Kenya currently has some 4,000 troops engaged there in the fight against al-Shabab.

“Kenya has been a major ally of the United States whenever it comes to conflict in the region whether it be genocide in Rwanda or it be problems in Somalia or humanitarian relief that is required somewhere in the region,” David Shinn, former US director for East African affairs, told DW.

“You need to have Kenya on board for logistical purposes in both Mombasa and Nairobi,” Shinn said. Mombasa hosts a port critical for East African trade and Nairobi is a regional financial center.

Prior to the Kenyan election, the US State Department made a veiled threat that a Kenyatta victory would carry consequences for the relationship between Washington and Nairobi.

“We live in an interconnected world and people should be thoughtful about the impact their choices have,” said US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson.

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ICC’s Gadhafi probe could empower neighbors more than Libya

(By Deutsche Welle) The international criminal investigation against Gadhafi may have limited impact on the Libyan conflict. But it could give protesters in other Arab countries new momentum in their bid to force democratic reforms.

In a period of two weeks, the world community stripped Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi of his status as rehabilitated dictator, relegating him to the rank of international pariah and possible war criminal.

On February 26, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to refer Gadhafi’s violent crackdown on peaceful protesters to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It was the first unanimous referral in the Security Council’s history.

But in the weeks since the Security Council’s historic vote, the international response to the conflict in Libya has floundered. As world powers debate the pros and cons of military intervention, heavily armed and well-trained Gadhafi loyalists have regained momentum and pushed deeper into rebel-controlled territory, closing in on the opposition stronghold of Benghazi.

So while the Security Council’s vote to investigate the Gadhafi regime may lend moral support to the embattled rebels, it has little practical impact on the balance of power in Libya. However, holding the Gadhafi regime legally accountable for alleged crimes could give renewed momentum to other opposition movements throughout the Arab world.

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US truce with International Criminal Court paves way for cooperation

(By Deutsche Welle) After years of open hostility, the US and the International Criminal Court have agreed to an uneasy truce. Can the only military superpower forge a partnership with the world’s most ambitious war crimes tribunal?

In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, the United States severed its already strained ties with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. In spite of the critical role Washington played in prosecuting crimes against humanity during the 1990s, America’s political establishment harbored a bipartisan suspicion of the ICC.

Under President Barack Obama, the US has dropped its outright hostility toward the world’s first permanent war crimes court and is re-evaluating its confrontational stance. Washington is now seeking a sort of strategic partnership with the Court – rooted in the pursuit of common interests. However, even as relations warm, the prospects of US membership are slim.

The ICC meanwhile soberly continues its task of prosecuting widely condemned war criminals. The next major trial begins on November 22 against Jean-Pierre Bemba, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s former vice-president.

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