Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s decision on Tuesday to kick out Kenya’s ambassador to Khartoum has thrown the region into a diplomatic spin.
Trade, security and regional interests could be at jeopardy as a result of the collapse in relations.
President Bashir also recalled Sudan’s ambassador to Kenya after the High Court ordered the government to arrest him should he ever set foot in Kenya.
The Sudanese leader is wanted for crimes against humanity and genocide by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.
The Kenyan ambassador to Sudan, Mr Robert Mutua Ngesu, was given 72 hours to leave Sudan.
And as relations between Kenya and Sudan collapsed, the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) warned of great risks if Kenya effected the court order.
On Tuesday, Attorney-General Githu Muigai and Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula met in Bujumbura, Burundi, where they are attending a meeting of the East African Community, to discuss the crisis.
Sources said the meeting also included other ministers who accompanied President Kibaki to the EAC summit meeting in Burundi.
“The Attorney General is holding urgent consultations with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and upon the conclusion of the consultations, I will formulate an objective response of the government of Kenya. We are looking at how the ruling impacts on Kenya’s foreign policy, regional and international interests,” said Prof Muigai by phone from Bujumbura.
He said the response will draw from the ruling, provisions of the Rome Statute which established the ICC, the Vienna Convention of Immunities of Heads of State and the International Criminal Act.
“It is then that the Attorney General will advise the government appropriately on the steps it has to take,” he said.
Prof Muigai said the case was handled by Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko and his office came in after the court ruling.
Foreign Affairs minister said they would appeal against the warrant against Al-Bashir.
Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula said they were studying the court ruling as he described Sudan’s decision to ask Kenya’s envoy in Khartoum to leave in 72 hours as “rushed”.
Mr Wetang’ula argued that ruling by Justice Nicholas Ombija directing Internal Security minister George Saitoti to arrest President al-Bashir and hand him over to the International Criminal Court had adverse effect on the country’s regional and international interests.
“As much as we respect the ruling of the High Court, we are aware that the Court does not operate in a vacuum. Since our judicial system provides for right of appeal, we shall carefully look at the judgement with a view to requesting the Attorney General to expeditiously prefer an appeal in the matter,” he said in a statement released in Bujumbura, Burundi, where he is attending the East Africa Community’s Head of State summit.
The storm was caused by Justice Nicholas Ombija’s ruling on Monday directing Internal Security minister George Saitoti and Prof Muigai to arrest President Bashir.
Justice Ombija said ICC Registrar Silvana Arbia requested all member states to arrest the Sudanese president if he visited their countries, arguing that Kenya should have arrested him on August 27, last year when he attended the promulgation of the new Constitution.
The case was filed by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Kenya Chapter.
A statement by the Sudan embassy in Nairobi said the ruling had damaged the “good” relations between the two countries.
“The court ruling of yesterday (Monday) was a serious damage to the bilateral relations between the two countries. The Sudan government has recalled its ambassador in Nairobi for consultations and requested the Kenyan ambassador to Khartoum to leave the country within 72 hours,” the statement said.
Sudan said the ruling touched on its sovereignty and was not ready to allow the ICC, which it described as an international NGO, to sour the relations with its neighbour.
“This ruling has to do with the sovereignty of Sudan and it is very difficult for the Sudan Government to accept the interference of an international NGO to hamper the relations between the two countries.”
It also argued that the African Union had resolved against executing the ICC warrants on President Bashir.
“Due to the political nature of the International Criminal Court process in the Sudan file, the African Union member countries have agreed not to cooperate with the ICC and all African countries should abide by that resolution,” it said.
Igad also warned that the ruling was a threat to regional stability and peace in Sudan. Igad executive secretary Mahboub Maalim warned of negative effects on peace in Sudan if the warrant is carried out. Igad brings together Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan and Ethiopia.