The Sudan Tribune The Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga spoke for the first time on the invitation of the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir to the promulgation of Kenya’s new constitution on Friday which has stirred a row both domestically and internationally and shifted focus away from the historic event.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Sudan’s Western region of Darfur during the conflict which broke out seven years ago.The United Nations estimated in 2008 that 300,00 may have perished in the conflict which also displaced 2.7 millions.
“You know, I’m on record as having said that President Bashir needs to answer for the crimes that were committed under his charge and, if only he has been cleared by the ICC, that he should be allowed to attend any, or other, meetings of heads of state. So, my position has not changed at all,” Odinga told Voice of America (VOA) in an interview.
The Kenyan PM has expressed his support to the ICC case against the Sudanese leader two years ago, making him at odds with other countries in the continent which condemned the warrant citing threat to peace and accusing the court of targeting Africa only in its work.
The East African nation is also under investigation by the Hague Tribunal for the post-election violence in 2007 which erupted after incumbent president Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential elections. Odinga’s party of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) at the time alleged electoral fraud.
It is believed that many prominent Kenyan businessmen and politicians played a role in funding and organizing the ethnic violence that rocked the country and killed at least a 1,000 people.
The ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said that he plans to file his first cases with the judges against perpetrators of Kenyan elections violence later this year which will target no more than six individuals.
Odinga speaking to VOA said that he wants an explanation into circumstances surrounding Bashir’s visit which was kept a secret the whole time by president Kibaki and very few government officials.
“I have said we want a proper explanation as to how this was done and why we were not informed that Mr. Bashir was going to come because we are a partner in a coalition and we had agreed on a list of guests who were supposed to be invited to the ceremony and Bashir was not one of them,” Odinga said.
“Over issues like this there must be proper and thorough consultation before anything like this happens. And, we also want an apology made to the international community, particularly ICC, because we are a signatory and party to the Rome Statute,” he added.
The Kenyan foreign ministry today reiterated its unapologetic position on inviting the Sudanese president saying that regional stability is more important than the country’s obligations under the Rome Statute.
“It is a matter of deep concern that some countries making regrettable remarks about Kenya and who are also members of the UN Security Council have no commitment at all to ICC as they have failed to subscribe to the Rome Statute,” said the ministry in a statement.
Onyonka said the continued existence of a stable and viable economy relied heavily on the stability of Kenya’s neighbours, including Sudan yet he also said that his country “wishes to reaffirm its commitment to the ICC”.
Kenya is a guarantor to the Sudanese peace deal signed in 2005, expected to culminate with a referendum early next year on whether South Sudan should become an independent state
But Odinga speaking earlier today at a Kinoo’s Presbyterian Church of East Africa in Kikuyu at the outskirts of Nairobi said the fact that Sudan is a neighbour to Kenya did not justify the invitation extended to Bashir.
“We must foster good neighbourliness, that is very important and that’s why we invited neighbours to come but if you have a neighbour who is a witch, you don’t invite them to a party……We are going to look bad in the eyes of the international community because we invited somebody indicted by the International Criminal Court to spoil the party for us,” the prime minister was quoted as saying by local media.
“It was wrong to invite President Bashir because he was indicted on crimes against humanity — as much as we want to foster good neighbourliness with countries in the region,” he added.
The ICC judges on Friday ordered the court’s registrar to transmit Kenya’s non-compliance with its obligations to the ICC Assembly of State Parties and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The latter referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC in 2005 under a Chapter VII resolution because Sudan was not a member of the court.
Kenya “has a clear obligation to cooperate” in enforcing arrest warrants, the judges said.
The Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU) Jean Ping who is a fervent critic of the court slammed the judges for ignoring the continental body’s resolutions blocking its members’ cooperation with the court in arresting Bashir.
“The African Union Commission expresses its deep regret that both the statements and the decisions grossly ignore and make no reference whatsoever to the obligations of the two countries to the African Union,” Ping said in a statement on the AU’s website.
“The African Union Commission recalls that both Chad and Kenya being neighbours of The Sudan have an abiding interest in ensuring peace and stability in The Sudan and in promoting peace, justice and reconciliation in that country, which can only be achieved through continuous engagement with the elected government of that country,” Ping added.
The AU top official noted the UNSC ignoring repeated requests to invoke Article 16 of the Rome Statute to freeze the warrants against Bashir.
“The same UN Security Council, which has ignored this request by AU member states and which includes states that have no obligations to the International Criminal Court, has no moral authority to sit in judgement over Chad and Kenya. Indeed, by virtue of their membership of the African union, these two countries have committed themselves to “condemnation and rejection of impunity” and voluntarily negotiated the Rome Statute along with the Organisation of African Unity and joined the
ICC with a view to enhancing the fight against impunity” Ping statement reads.
The Kenyan PM however, suggested that position of AU is reverting back to bad policies of its predecessor organisation which bestowed protection on leaders who abused human rights in their own countries.
“Africa has come a long way. We used to have the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which was crippled in terms of functioning because there was a clause which said about non-interference with the internal affairs of a sovereign state,” Odinga said.
“Leadership in a country could carry out genocide and OAU was completely impotent to deal with it but when we formed the AU, we said goodbye to sovereignty,” he added.
Odinga said it was wrong to purport to adhere to AU resolutions yet governments have in the past gone against the body and cited the case of former Ugandan president Idi Amin. Some 300,000 people were tortured, killed or “disappeared” in Amin’s police state.
The Transport minister Amos Kimunya said Kenya should be grateful to Bashir for honouring the call and visiting the country.
“Kenyans must be thankful to him that he took the risk of international warrant of arrest against him to travel out of Sudan to honour the people of Kenya,” Kimunya said.
Kofi Annan demands clarification
The former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who brokered sharing deal in 2008 between Kibaki and Odinga said he was shocked to see Bashir at the ceremony.
“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 in his capacity as chair of the Panel of Eminent African Personalities on Kenya.
“Kenya has specific obligations as a signatory of the Rome statute and is also cooperating with the International Criminal Court on investigations relating to the 2007/8 election violence,” said the text issued in Nairobi.
“In the circumstances, the government should clarify its position and reaffirm its cooperation with and commitment to the ICC,” said Annan.
But the Kenyan Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka affirmed his country’s commitment to the ICC despite receiving Bashir.
Speaking at House of Grace Church in Nairobi on Sunday, Mr Kalonzo said: “Kenya is a member in good standing of the ICC. This basically means that the country is committed to co-operating with the court.”
However, the Kenyan Lands Minister James Orengo who is part of a cabinet committee on international security said he will push for action against the officials behind the visit saying they must take responsibility.
“The committee chaired by Internal minister [Prof George] Saitoti will meet to investigate the issue and give way forward,” Orengo said.
An advocate of the High Court who worked for the Sierra Leone special tribunal, Betty Murungi, warned the Rome Statute has no provision for reservation, meaning that it binds all countries that ratify the law. The signing, she explained, meant Kenya was domesticating the Rome statute.
“We were in breach of our own laws under the International Crimes Act (2008) which domesticated the Rome Statute,” Murungi said. The Act covers a chapter on how Kenya is supposed to cooperate with ICC in executing surrender warrants.
“It is astonishing and it also reflects badly on the country, when we have just gone through a historic transformation of our laws, and we do not want Kenya to become a pariah State,” argued Murungi.
British High Commissioner to Kenya Rob Macaire wondered why a leader under an ICC arrest warrant was allowed into the country.
“We were surprised and shocked at his presence on a day when Kenya was writing history on constitutional reforms. We will discuss with the government how that came to happen,” he said.
On Friday, the U.S. president Barack Obama, the European Union (EU) and several international human rights groups slammed Kenya’s hosting of the Sudanese president calling on the authorities there to arrest him.
However, Bashir only stayed in Kenya for a few hours before heading back home.
Sudan’s foreign minister Ali Karti said that “Kenya had invited A-Bashir to the summit in adherence with the African Union’s decision and it had shunned all the calls it received from many quarters and activists who stand behind the ICC and whose hopes were dissipated when Kenya welcomed Al-Bashir, especially that Kenya is a signatory of the ICC membership.”
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