Bashir skips Kenyatta's inauguration
09 April 2013, 16:56
Nairobi - Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir failed to attend Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta’s inauguration after his planned trip to Nairobi was mired in controversy.
The Sudanese leader skipped the event after it became apparent his visit would put Kenya at loggerheads with the international community over war crimes charges Bashir faces before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Kenya authorities confirmed the Sudanese leader had cancelled his trip “due to other pressing issues”. “We had invited Bashir but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which coordinated the arrival of guests, confirmed that he was not coming,” said Kenya Government Spokesman Muthui Kariuki.
Bashir has been indicted by the ICC and Rome Statute signatories, including Kenya, are obliged to arrest him and hand him over for prosecution at The Hague. Bashir was indicted in 2008 but the African Union (AU) has snubbed the ICC’s push to prosecute him.
He faces two counts of war crimes for direct and indirect involvement in killings aimed at destroying Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups in Sudan’s Darfur region.
His woes began after UN Security Council resolution 1564 referred his case to the ICC for possible prosecution. Yesterday, Kariuki said the ICC should use other means to arrest Bashir. He said Kenya couldn’t arrest a leader of a country it shares a border with.
“We cannot contemplate to compromise (relations) with a person we share a border with,” he said. Earlier reports in the Sudanese media indicated Bashir would be arriving in Nairobi for the inauguration alongside other African leaders.
His planned visit to Nairobi also drew the ire of Kenya’s civil society. Civil society congress leader James Onyango threatened to demonstrate against Bashir’s visit.
“It will be an affront to the rule of law. President Bashir should own up to the charges he faces for mass killings instead of disobeying the ICC and acting as if he lives on an island of his own,” said Onyango.
In 2010, the United Nations Security Council protested when Kenya invited Bashir to the promulgation of its new constitution and failed to arrest him. The UN said Kenya risked being declared a pariah state.
His 2010 visit ended up in court, which civil society officials successfully obtaining a high court order compelling the Kenyan government to arrest Bashir should he visit.
This placed government in a catch 22 situation, whether host Bashir and fall foul of the law or not to invite a powerful neighbour. “Bashir’s invitation is in itself a breach of the Rome Statute.
It undermines the International Crimes Act,” says human rights lawyer Wilfred Nderitu, a legal representative of victims of the 2007 Kenya’s election violence. Nderitu added: “It is a test to the incoming administration. Their commitment towards cooperation with the ICC continues is being questioned locally and internationally.”
Beatrice Otieno of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission said having ratified the Rome Statute, Kenya has only one option in the Bashir saga. “When you sign up, its means you have to oblige.
If you don’t arrest him it means you don’t respect the very treaty you signed. Such behaviour may only serve to complicate international relations,” she says.
- CAJ News