Kenya in vigorous defence of Bashir’s visit

Tuesday August 31 2010

Kenya's minister for foreign affairs Mosses Wetangula addresses a press conferences at his office. The minister on Tuesday gave a spirited defence in Parliament over the government's invitation of Sudanese President Hassan Omar al-Bashir during last week's promulgation of the new constitution. PHOTO/ FILE

Kenya's minister for foreign affairs Mosses Wetangula addresses a press conferences at his office. The minister on Tuesday gave a spirited defence in Parliament over the government's invitation of Sudanese President Hassan Omar al-Bashir during last week's promulgation of the new constitution. PHOTO/ FILE 

The Government put up a spirited defence in Parliament over its hosting of Sudanese President Hassan Omar al-Bashir.

Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula told the Kenyan Parliament on Tuesday that the visit had paid dividends as some touchy issues on Sudan’s forthcoming referendum were resolved.

He said President Kibaki and Mr al-Bashir held talks at State House that resulted in Sudan’s two vice presidents making a breakthrough in Khartoum the following day.

He said Vice Presidents Salvar Kiir and Osman Taha agreed that the referendum would be held on January 9, 2011 as stipulated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

“The decision to invite President al-Bashir has been vindicated,” he said.

The Mr Wetang’ula’s statement sparked fierce debate and he was forced to respond to a barrage of questions from clearly divided MPs.

Mr Wetangu’la said the organising committee was picked from the President and Prime Minister’s offices and was co-chaired by Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura and Permanent Secretary in the PM’s office Mohammed Isahakia.

Dr Boni Khalwale demanded to know if PM Raila Odinga, who has said he was unaware of the visit, had misled the nation.

“I do not want to pass judgement over the PM. All I can say is there were high level consultations between the Office of the President and that of the Prime Minister,” said Mr Wetang’ula.

The minister dismissed fears that the visit was an indication of lack of political will to comply with the International Criminal Court if it issued warrants of arrest for perpetrators of the 2007 post-poll violence.

He said the two issues were unrelated and the Government had already pledged to support and cooperate with the ICC.

Mr Wetang’ula also read a statement by the AU supporting Kenya’s decision.

Mr Jakoyo Midiwo said: “I want to be assured the visit is not meant to send a signal that those who ordered the killings of Kenyans will not be arrested.”

Transport minister Amos Kimunya failed to have records of personal attacks on President al-Bashir expunged on the grounds that he was leader of a friendly nation.

Mr Musa Sirma (ODM Nominated) said President al-Bashir was responsible for killing 300,000 people and was not fit to step on Kenyan soil.

Reported by Njeri Rugene, John Ngirachu and Caroline Wafula