By Uhuru Kenyatta
The freedom fighters and founding fathers who made considerable sacrifices to secure independence for African nations knew their work was not done with the formal declaration of the end of colonial rule.
Many of the early nationalists understood that the continent needed to do far more to secure true freedom and that the surest way to break the shackles of imperial domination was through the pursuit of the unity of the African people.
Half a century later, the work the founding fathers began is far from complete. Any attempts to find a way to solidify cooperation among African states, to seek acceptance for the fact that the problems the continent faces are best solved from within rather than through the prism of self-serving foreign intervention and more generally to find ways in which we can pool resources in the pursuit of greater prosperity have been met with stiff resistance by those who benefit from a divided Africa.
Fortunately, there has scarcely been a more exciting time to be an African than this. Across the continent, we see evidence of a region that is on the rise.
This is not just evident in the impressive economic growth figures that surpass those in any other part of the world.
Africa’s rise is visible in more subtle facts. School enrolment is at its highest rate in our history, our dynamic youth are engaging in exciting innovations and embracing the promise of the digital revolution in ways that are transforming our economies. The use of mobile money, admirably pioneered in Kenya, has caught the imagination of policy makers around the world and been adopted with success in many countries.
Yet these gains will remain fragile for as long as the continent does not jealously guard its sovereignty and assiduously work to secure its freedom.
Africans are not a xenophobic race. We are among the most welcoming people on earth but we want to engage with the world on equal terms not as the junior partner in an unequal marriage.
In my speech to the African Union heads of state summit in October 2013, I spoke about the exploitation of institutions such as the International Criminal Court to advance the political agenda of those that seek to shape the politics of our continent.
My stand that the cases brought against myself and my Deputy were a desperate attempt to use the court to take away the sovereign right of the people of Kenya to decide who should lead them has since been vindicated.
Prosecutors at the ICC dropped the case against me after admitting a fact which was transparently clear from the start that they had no evidence to sustain any credible prosecution whatsoever but not before I was subjected to the most gratuitous slander and character assassination.
It remains my view that the case against Deputy President William Ruto and Joshua arap Sang is an obstacle in the path of reconciliation in Kenya and is singularly unhelpful.
Yet it is not our lot as Africans only to lament about the designs of those that seek to impose their will on us.
Instead, it is vital that we as a people offer proactive solutions. As Africans, we are obviously united in our desire to see peace and justice prevail across this great continent.
However, it is also our firm position that those best placed to tackle the challenges we face are Africans.
This weekend, I will lead a Kenyan delegation to the African Union heads of state summit and, in partnership with others, will propose a number of amendments to the protocol on the statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.
It is worth noting that the African Union assembly, in a unanimous declaration in February 2009, warned about the abuse of the principle of universal jurisdiction to interfere in the politics of African countries.
Further, the Constitutive Act of the African Union, adopted on July 11 2000 in Lome, Togo, requires that Africans find ways to settle disputes through peaceful means.
The object of the changes we propose is the creation of an African Court of Justice and People’s Rights which will have original and appellate jurisdiction for the trial, upon recommendation of the Peace and Security Council, of anyone accused of committing war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
This will be one of the institutions that can serve to insulate the continent against foreign misadventures in addition to other steps already taken. We in East Africa have already taken great strides in the establishment of an East African Standby Brigade which can intervene in times of conflict and crisis and we will continue to work with partners on the continent to pursue the adoption of an African Union Standby Brigade empowered to enforce the peace in times of conflict rather than relying on foreigners with their complicated and unknown agenda. The proposed African Court of Justice follows in this vein.
There will be many challenges along the path. But we are utterly committed in this journey because we are guided by our forebears such as the great Ghanaian nationalist Kwame Nkrumah who told us that “we need the strength of our combined numbers and resources to protect ourselves from the very positive dangers of returning colonialism in disguised forms.”
The writer is the President of Kenya