Friday, August 27, 2010

Bashir surprise guest in Kenya

Sudan President Omar Al Bashir. Photo/REUTERS

Sudan President Omar Al Bashir. Photo/REUTERS 

By WALTER MENYA

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court made a surprise attendance at the celebrations to promulgate Kenya’s new constitution on Friday.

President al-Bashir is subject to two arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal court in The Hague for atrocities committed in Darfur in Sudan but Kenya government said it would not arrest him and hand him over to the Court.

The first warrant against President al-Bashir was issued in March 2009 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The second was issued in July 2010 on charges of genocide.

The intended prosecution of Sudan’s head of state by the ICC has been hailed as a transformative event in the history of the Darfur genocide as well as of the court.

President al-Bashir arrived at Uhuru Park at exactly 9.16 am escorted by Tourism minister Najib Balala. But his arrival did not go down well with a section of the dignitaries already seated at the historical grounds.

Shortly after his arrival, US ambassador Michael Rannerberger was seen in animated conversation with Sudan ambassador in Nairobi Majok Guandong before walking back to his seat.

State Guest

However, foreign affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula told nation.co.ke that Kenya had no intentions of arresting Mr al-Bashir.

“He is here in response to our invitation to all our neighbours and the sub-region to attend this historic moment for Kenya,” said Mr Wetang’ula.

“He is a state guest. You do not harm or embarrass your guest. That is not African,” the minister added in response to queries.

The Human Rights Watch, the global organisation dedicated to protecting the civil rights of people, sent a press release urging Kenya to arrest President al-Bashir if he enters the territory of the East African nation.

In a statement mailed to reporters by HRW, the organisation said: “Kenya should bar Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir from entering Kenya or arrest him for trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) if he enters Kenyan territory.”

“Kenya will forever tarnish the celebration of its long-awaited constitution if it welcomes an international fugitive to the festivities,” said Elise Keppler, senior counsel in the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. “Even worse, hosting al-Bashir would throw into question Kenya’s commitment to cooperate with the ICC in its Kenyan investigation.”

Kenya is a state party to the ICC. The court’s treaty, the Rome Statute, requires states to cooperate with the court, which includes the execution of arrest warrants.

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