Monday, August 30, 2010

Kenya says stability overrides ICC in Bashir row

Written By:Margaret Kalekye/Reuters , Posted: Sun, Aug 29, 2010

Caption: The government had invited leaders from all its neighboring countries including Sudan

Kenya on Sunday defended its decision not to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is wanted on genocide charges by the International Criminal Court.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry said it did not want to endanger regional stability.

Bashir's presence on Friday at a ceremony to sign a new constitution has drawn criticism from around the world because as a signatory of the Rome Statute, Kenya is obliged to act on an ICC warrant of arrest against him for charges of genocide.

"Kenya's obligation to the ICC notwithstanding, the country has a legitimate and strategic interest in ensuring peace and stability in the sub-region and promoting peace, justice and reconciliation in the Sudan," Assistant Minister Richard Onyonka, told reporters.

Kenya, which has the largest economy in east Africa, has borne the brunt of instability in the region with refugees streaming in over the years from unstable neighbours like Somalia.

He said the continued existence of a stable and viable economy relied heavily on the stability of Kenya's neighbours, including Sudan.

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.

At the same time Onyonka told off countries critising Kenya over Mr Bashir's visit saying they had failed to subscribe to the Rome Statute that gave the International Criminal Court the mandate to try perpetrators of human rights abuses.
"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 assistant minister.

Onyonka further revealed that many Western partners maintained high level representation and contacts with Sudan noting that the UN was prominently represented at the recent inauguration of the Sudanese leaders.

African Union

Onyonka said the country was committed to cooperating with the international court but as a member of the African Union, it was also obliged to respect the AU's decision not to co-operate with the court in relation to Bashir's arrest.

The African leaders who met last month in Kampala said charging Mr Bashir would jeopardise the peace process.

The Sudanese leader, whose arrival at Nairobi's Uhuru Park in the company of Tourism Minister Najib Balala took Kenyans by surprise.

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Amos Kimunya has denied reports that Bashir flew into the country through Wilson airport.
Kimunya confirmed that the Sudanese leader used the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport like other Presidents who attended the ceremony.

He said Kenya closed Wilson airport for security purposes and not to facilitate the arrival and departure of Bashir as claimed.

Separately,Prime Minister Raila Odinga expressed his disapproval saying he was kept in the dark on plans to invite Bashir.

"We have a problem with our neighbour Sudan, I have spoken in my own capacity as Raila Odinga and I have a right to do so and I think we must stand by what we have signed as a government," the Premier said.

Mr Odinga said that President Al-Bashir's presence and failure by the government to arrest him made Kenya look bad in the eyes of the international community because of his indictment.

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