Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived at the International Criminal Court, or ICC, in The Hague on Wednesday, becoming the first sitting head of state to appear before the global court, according to media reports.
Kenyatta, who was sworn in as Kenya’s president in April 2013, stands accused of five counts of crimes against humanity for orchestrating violence in the aftermath of disputed presidential elections in 2007.
Following the declaration of the results of the 2007 elections, which showed incumbent President Mwai Kibaki as the winner, nearly 1,200 people were killed in clashes between supporters of Kibaki and his rival Raila Odinga. Hundreds of thousands of people were also reportedly displaced in the ensuing violence.
Kenyatta, who backed Kibaki in the 2007 elections, has been accused of funding militia that perpetrated violence that raged on until early 2008. Kenyatta, however, has reportedly denied being involved in the violence.
“My conscience is clear, has been clear, and will remain forever clear that I am innocent of all the accusations leveled against me,” Kenyatta said, before departing for the Netherlands, according to a CNN report. Kenyatta also reportedly said that he was attending the hearing as a private citizen after appointing his deputy, William Ruto, as the acting president.
Kenyatta’s allies have reportedly asked the ICC to postpone his trial to allow him to focus on the rising threat posed to Kenya by Islamist groups in Somalia.
“This is no time to weaken a country and a region by removing its President for trial,” Mahboob Maalim, a Kenyan government official accompanying Kenyatta to The Hague, told Reuters.
Kenyatta was reportedly summoned by the ICC after the prosecution said that it did not have enough evidence to proceed with the trial. In September, the prosecution had accused the Kenyan government of obstructing the investigation by refusing to hand over bank and phone records.
“In ordinary circumstances, the insufficiency of evidence would cause the prosecution to withdraw the charges. As previously explained, however, it would be inappropriate for the Prosecution to withdraw the charges at this stage in light of the Government of Kenya’s continuing failure to cooperate fully with the Court’s requests for assistance,” the ICC said, in a statement released in September.