Annan calls on Kenya to 'clarify' al-Bashir’s visit

Sunday August 29 2010

Protestors carry placards in Nairobi, calling for the arrest of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on August 27, 2010 who arrived in the East African nation Friday to witness a historic constitution promulgation ceremony. Bashir has an arrest warrant on his head by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for human rights atrocities in Darfur. AFP / PHOTO

Protestors carry placards in Nairobi, calling for the arrest of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on August 27, 2010 who arrived in the East African nation Friday to witness a historic constitution promulgation ceremony. Bashir has an arrest warrant on his head by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for human rights atrocities in Darfur. AFP / PHOTO 

By EMMANUEL ONYANGO

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called on the Kenyan government to “clarify its position” on the presence of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir in Nairobi on Friday during the promulgation of its new constitution.

Annan, who brokered Kenya’s power sharing deal at the height of 2008 post-election violence, released a statement on Sunday expressing his “surprise” at the invitation extended to President Al-Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocidal crimes committed in Darfur.

“Like many, I was surprised by the presence of President Al-Bashir of Sudan in Nairobi for the promulgation of Kenya’s new constitution,” Annan said in a statement.

“Kenya has specific obligations as a signatory of the Rome statute and is also cooperating with the International Criminal Court (ICC) on investigations relating to the 2007/8 election violence.”

“In the circumstances, the Government should clarify its position and reaffirm its cooperation with and commitment to the ICC.”

Annan now joins President Obama, the international community and local leaders in condemning the Sudan leader’s presence during the historic ceremony at Uhuru Park.

In a statement issued from the White House on Saturday, President Obama said he was “disappointed that Kenya hosted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in defiance of International Criminal Court arrest warrants for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide”.

Obama added: “In Kenya and beyond, justice is a critical ingredient for lasting peace.”

Orange Democratic Movement, Kenya’s coalition partner, on Saturday also distanced itself from the invitation of President Omar al-Bashir, putting the blame on the Foreign Affairs ministry which is controlled by the President Kibaki led Party of National Unity.

“We would like to assure Kenyans that ODM will do its best, as a partner in the coalition government, to obtain proper explanation from the ministry of Foreign Affairs,” said Prof Nyong’o at a Press conference in Nairobi.

But Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetang’ula, in his defence, said that President Bashir was invited alongside other heads of state from neighbouring countries because it was in Kenya’s best interests that Sudan gets lasting peace.

“We have no regrets at all. Kenya chaired the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and we have to talk to both sides. Peace in Sudan is our interest. Somalia has been a big headache for Kenya and we do not want another (such) situation. He was our guest and we are happy that he honoured the invitation,” Mr Wetang’ula said.

Mr Wetang’ula cited an African Union resolution that was transmitted to the United Nations, in which African leaders asked the ICC to lift the warrant of arrest against President Bashir as they seek other ways of resolving the Darfur conflict.