A regional meeting slated for Nairobi this weekend will now be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after the International Criminal Court asked Kenya to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
On Tuesday evening, sources said Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (Igad) summit organisers transferred the meeting to Ethiopia to shield al-Bashir who has an arrest warrant against him from the International Criminal Court.
Suggestions that the summit be held in Khartoum were dismissed after one of the regional presidents said he would not travel to the Sudan capital. The organisers were looking for a venue where Mr al-Bashir would attend without fears of being arrested.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who has issued two warrants of arrest against al-Bashir, had requested the Pre-Trial Chamber to make a ruling that would oblige Kenya to arrest al-Bashir after receiving information that the Sudanese president would attend the Igad meeting.
“The Chamber (Pre-Trial), renewed its request to the Republic of Kenya to take any necessary measure to ensure the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, in the event that he travels to Kenya, be arrested and surrendered to the court in accordance with its obligations as a State Party to the Rome Statute,” a statement by the ICC stated.
The ruling was made by Judges Cuno Tarfusser, Sykvia Steiner and Sanji Mmasenono Monageng.
They said the decision was reached following “a notification by Mr Moreno-Ocampo that al-Bashir might travel to Kenya for an Igad summit on October 30.”
The Igad meeting is crucial to Mr al-Bashir since his government has been dragging its feet towards the scheduled January referendum which will determine the fate of a united Sudan.
Sudanese Vice-President Salva Kiir, who is the President of Southern Sudan, has warned that they will vote to secede should the North sabotage the referendum. Even though Kenya is a state party to the Rome Statute, it failed to arrest Mr al-Bashir when he visited the country on August 27 to attend the promulgation of the new Constitution.
The ICC immediately reported Kenya to the United Nations Security Council for allowing Mr al-Bashir to visit Nairobi.
The government has explained that the decision was taken for the sake of stability in Sudan and as a crucial step towards a peaceful referendum in the vast country divided along the North-South axis in January.
However, pressure has been mounting on Kenya to arrest Mr al-Bashir with 23 groups from different African countries writing to President Kibaki to arrest the Sudan leader.
The Kenya chapter of the International Commission of Jurists is planning to go court to force the government to arrest al-Bashir.
Yesterday, the Pre-Trial Chamber, requested Kenya to submit reasons by October 29, which will stop it from arresting the Sudanese president.