Sudan’s President and war crimes suspect Omar Hassan Al-Bashir has reversed his decision to expel Kenya’s ambassador in Khartoum, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula said yesterday.
Speaking at Wilson Airport shortly after he arrived from his pilgrimage of pity to Khartoum, Wetang’ula said Kenya had managed to avert a diplomatic row with Sudan following a High Court ruling to execute an ICC arrest warrant on Bashir if he comes to Kenya. “Sudan had also set out a raft of reprisals that would have affected our economy,” Wetang’ula revealed.
The reprisals included blocking Kenyan flights over Sudanese airspace, breaking trade links and expelling more than 1,000 Kenyans in Sudan, some of them students. Bashir also intended to expel Kenyans in the UN peace mission in Darfur. Bashir would have boycotted any meetings organised by Kenya as the chair of Igad on the CPA and would have not been receptive to any talks on the Nile waters.
Last year Kenya’s tea exports to Sudan were worth US$200 million, Kenya’s fifth leading forex earner, Wetang’ula said. Wetang’ula was accompanied by Defence minister Yusuf Haji to deliver a special message from President Kibaki to Bashir. “We managed to stop the reprisals and secure a stay for our ambassador who was supposed to leave Sudan at the lapse of 72 hours on Thursday night,” said Wetang’ula.
In a spineless act of groveling he said they told Bashir that “Kenya needs the least problems added in its basket”, taking into account the Operation Linda Nchi, the military undertaking in which Kenya is fighting the al Shabaab in Somalia. Wetang’ula briefed PM Raila Odinga who was also at the airport before addressing the media.
Wetang’ula said they assured Bashir that he would not be arrested if he comes to Kenya based on the Vienna Convention on immunities of a President. The ICC has charged Bashir with genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Wetang’ula said the government was going to appeal the High Court ruling. He said this was not interference with the court. “A critique on a ruling is not an assault on the judiciary. Anybody is entitled to criticise a court ruling if he is not happy, including the media,” said Wetang’ula. He added that it is important for the three arms of government to work together for the nation.
The next Igad meeting will not be in Kenya but in Ethiopia which is the current chair. Meanwhile, the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) has urged the government to respect court decisions and desist from attacking the judiciary for carrying out its functions.
Executive Director Atsango Chesoni said civil society are worried that the conduct of the government in response to the High Court decision to issue a warrant of arrest against Bashir may be an indication of the government unwillingness to cooperate with the ICC in respect to the two Kenyan cases. “We remind the government of its obligation and commitment to cooperate with the ICC in keeping with the strong wishes of the public,” Chesoni said in a press briefing accompanied by Gladwell Otieno, Executive Director African Centre for Open Governance.
“The government that rides roughshod over its international obligations which it has freely assumed is a government that will not listen to its own people,” said Chesoni. She accused the government of being casual and and developing an irresponsible approach to the law at the international level noting that this “will have a casual and irresponsible approach to law at the national level”.
Chesoni said it was a grave violation of state obligation and a show of disrespect for international treaties for the Kenyan government to invite and host Bashir when Kenyans were celebrating the promulgation of the Constitution on August 27, 2010. “The high court is within its rights and duties in keeping with the International Crimes Act of 2010 to operationalise warrants of arrest on a wanted person by the ICC to answer charges of crimes against humanity,” she said.
Gladwell Otieno urged African governments and Igad in particular to respect the fact that Kenya is on course towards reforming the judiciary.
She said through its decision Kenya has now joined a list of countries that fight for international justice such as South Africa which applied for Bashir’s arrest warrant before Uganda which issued public statements on his arrest. “We stress the need for Kenya and Africa to recognise that real peace and security in the region will be sustainable only in an environment of justice and accountability not for fear and impunity,” Otieno said.
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