Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta says he will temporarily step down as president while attending a hearing at the International Criminal Court this week.
He told the nation in an address before parliament that he would invoke a never-before-used article of the constitution that will see his deputy William Ruto temporarily fill the role of president.
That article says the deputy can fill in when the president is absent, temporarily incapacitated or during any other period the president decides.
The temporary abdication of the country’s top political job is Mr Kenyatta’s way of fulfilling the court order that he attend but avoiding becoming the first president to sit before the court by insisting he is a private citizen during the hearing.
“It is for this reason that I chose not to put the sovereignty of more than 40 million Kenyans on trial since their democratic will should never be subject to another jurisdiction,” Mr Kenyatta said.
“Therefore let it not be said that I am attending the status conference as the president of Kenya. Nothing in my position or my deeds as president warrants my being in court.”
If Mr Kenyatta had refused to go, as some members of his political party have urged, he risked facing an international arrest warrant and condemnation or economic sanctions against Kenya.
Mr Kenyatta, Mr Ruto and a Kenyan radio personality all face crimes against humanity charges before the ICC.
The ICC’s prosecutor has accused the three of inciting massive violence following the country’s 2007 election. That violence – often ethnically motivated –killed more than 1,000 people.