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The British government has defended meetings by its officials with President Uhuru Kenyatta despite his indictment by the International Criminal Court.
Prime Minister David Cameron told the BBC that he met Uhuru because Kenya was playing a vital role fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia.
He said Uhuru had assured him that he was cooperating with the ICC and in Cameron’s view, he is “innocent until proved guilty.” Before the elections, the UK said it would have only “essential contact” with Uhuru if he was elected president because he is an ICC indictee.
The trip to the London conference on Somalia was Uhuru’s first trip to Europe, apart from travelling to the Hague, since he was charged with crimes against humanity by the ICC in December 2010. His trial is due to start on July 9.
Some UK media houses, particularly Sky News, had prior to his visit, raised issue of why British officials and leaders would meet with a president facing criminal charges at the ICC.
Meeting Uhuru at Lancaster House before the start of the conference, Cameron hailed the strong historic ties between Kenya and the United Kingdom.
The Prime Minister underlined the commitment of the British Government to further strengthen relations. Cameron said the UK was particularly keen on enhancing the levels of trade and investment between the two countries.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague also met Uhuru and discussed Kenya’s significant contribution to Somalia. The Foreign Secretary acknowledged Uhuru’s commitment to the judicial process with regards to the ICC.
“I expressed gratitude for Kenya’s significant contribution to bringing security to Somalia through the AU Mission in Somalia, and welcomed the progress made in recent discussions between regional leaders and the Somali President on building political stability in Somalia. We also discussed bilateral relations. The UK is the largest cumulative investor in Kenya, and there are more British visitors to Kenya than from anywhere else. It is in the interests of both our countries to build on these strong ties,” Hague said after the meeting.
Hague and Uhuru discussed how to support the Somali government; Kenya’s contribution to Amisom; and the large number of Somali refugees in Kenya.
Uhuru applauded the fraternal relations between the two countries and appreciated the assistance that the United Kingdom extends to Kenya.
Uhuru said the assistance in education, health as well as humanitarian and social protection had improved the lives of many Kenyans particularly in the rural areas.
“I am convinced that we can expand the scope of our bilateral cooperation and traditional friendship based on mutual trust and respect for the benefit of our two countries,” Uhuru said and invited the British business community to invest in Kenya.
“The country is indeed on the path for high economic growth and is emerging as the regional economic, trading and investment hub. The potential for increasing the level of investments, diversification as well as enhancing the volume and value of bilateral trade remains high,” Uhuru said.
Uhuru thanked Cameron for the timely decision to convene the London Conference on Somalia, saying the Conference was a follow up on a similar conference held last year. He said the conference offered a unique opportunity for initiating new partnerships between Somalia and the international community.