Kenya's president is set to attend a hearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague after temporarily stepping down as president.

President Uhuru Kenyatta told parliament that he is to invoke an article of the Kenyan constitution never used before in order to temporarily remove himself as president while his deputy William Ruto fills his position.

He claimed that he would not attend the court as the first ever sitting president in order to preserve the sovereignty of the Kenyan people.

"To protect the sovereignty of the Kenyan republic I now take the extraordinary and unprecedented step of evoking article 1473 of the constitution and I will shortly issue the legal notice necessary to appoint honourable William Ruto, the deputy president, as acting president while I attend the status conference at the Hague in the Netherlands," he said.

Kenyatta faces charges of crimes against humanity for the violence which followed the country's 2007-08 election. He is accused of organising ethnic massacres which killed over 1,200 people but maintains his innocence.

"I wish to reiterate here for all that my conscience is clear, has been clear and will remain forever clear that I am innocent of all the accusations that have been levelled against me.

"After all this, the prosecutor of the ICC has since last December and as recently as last month, admitted to the judges that the available evidence is insufficient to prove alleged criminal responsibility beyond reasonable doubt."

If he refused to attend the court's hearing he would have risked the possibility of an international arrest warrant and international sanctions.