ODM demands statement over surprise visit by Sudan’s leader

Saturday August 28 2010

Orange Democratic Movement secretary general Peter Anyang' Nyong'o and the party's Executive Director Janet Ongera address the media at Orange house in a past press briefing. PHOTO / FILE

Orange Democratic Movement secretary general Peter Anyang' Nyong'o and the party's Executive Director Janet Ongera address the media at Orange house in a past press briefing. PHOTO / FILE 

By BENJAMIN MUINDI [email protected] AND NJERI RUGENE [email protected]

The Orange Democratic Party on Saturday distanced itself from the unexpected invitation of President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan during Friday’s promulgation of the new Constitution.

Even as ODM secretary-general Anyang’ Nyong’o said the blame rested squarely at the Foreign Affairs ministry, MPs have vowed to demand an explanation on Tuesday in Parliament over the surprise visit.

“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.

“We will seek to know how President Bashir came here and why the government as a whole was neither consulted nor informed before such an unfortunate invitation was issued.”

Prof Nyong’o, who was accompanied by ministers Amason Kingi (Fisheries) and James Orengo (Lands), said the issue of good neighbourliness did not stand in the way of the international law.

Co-operation with ICC

Only last year, Kenya domesticated the International Criminal Act that demands, among other things, that there has to be co-operation with the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“This is definitely not a good beginning to compound a new Constitution with an act of impunity,” Mr Orengo said adding that besides the explanation, Kenya had to take full responsibility.

“We first have to give an explanation to ourselves because we broke our law that is supreme, besides violating an international agreement that we are a signatory.”

Further, a group of MPs who are members of an international lobby of Parliamentarians for Peace, led by assistant minister for Defence David Musila, said their chairman Nominated MP Musa Sirma also demanded the statement.

Mr Musila, Mr Sirma, Mr Abdul Bahari and Mr David Were said the Kibaki Administration did not include the name of President Bashir in the list of invited guests that was sent out to other dignitaries to avoid a possible backlash from the international community.

“We were shocked beyond words when we heard the master of ceremonies announce the arrival of President Bashir at Uhuru Park,” said Mr Musila.

“His name was not in the list of invited guests that we had and some of us had been assured by a government official that Sudan would be represented at the function by President of the South Mr Salva Kiir.”

The National Coordinator of the Bunge La Mwananchi George Nyongesa on Saturday protested the arrest of two people for holding a demonstration on the streets of Nairobi on Friday afternoon to demand the arrest of President Bashir.

“It is ridiculous that innocent Kenyans are gracing police cells while the real criminal is wining and dining with our President on taxpayer’s money,” he said, while demanding their release from Central Police Station where they were being held.

Addressing a news conference at Parliament Buildings yesterday under the auspices of Parliamentarians for Global Action, a lobby that campaigns for adherence to international laws, Mr Musila described the presence of Mr Bashir as a blot to the otherwise successful day for Kenya.

The MPs said their headquarters in New York had earlier sent them an alert informing them of a possible visit by President Bashir and when they sought to confirm with the Government, they were reportedly assured the Sudanese leader would not be visiting.

The MPs called for an immediate explanation from the government. The MPs were concerned that the presence of Bashir in Nairobi would send a message to The Hague that Kenya would not cooperate with the ICC to arrest key suspects of the post-election violence.

Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara said the Bashir issue would make the country face unnecessary international scrutiny.

He also said the visit was not made public and the government had questions to answer.

“This brings into question our commitment into bringing to justice perpetrators of the 2007 post-election violence and the government’s commitment to Agenda 4 reforms,” said Imanyara.

Mr Wetang’ula confirmed that President Bashir had been invited by the Kenya Government which he said had already made its position known that it would abide by the African Union decision to defy any indictment facing a sitting President.