Kenya to move Sudan summit, denies Bashir pressure


Kenya is trying to move a regional meeting on Sudan’s political future to Ethiopia, but not because it is under pressure to arrest the Sudanese president, the Kenyan foreign minister said.

Sudan’s leader, Omar Hassan al Bashir, is expected to attend a summit of the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) this weekend amid fears that a January referendum on South Sudan’s independence will not take place on time.

The summit was to take place in Kenya, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) had demanded that Kenya act on an ICC arrest warrant against Bashir, who faces charges of genocide over the counter-insurgency campaign in Darfur, Reuters reports.

Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said on Wednesday it was logical for the meeting to take place at the African Union’s (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa.
“We are trying to see if we can have it in Addis, which is the seat of the AU (African Union), so that the twin bodies of IGAD and the AU itself can deal with the issues, in preparation for the Jan. 9 referendum,” Wetangula told Reuters by phone.

Ethiopia has confirmed Addis Ababa’s readiness to host the meeting, Wetangula said, denying Kenya was caving in to pressure at home and abroad to detain Bashir if he set foot on Kenyan soil.
“We have no demands from the ICC and we are not the arresting agents of the ICC so that is not an issue. The issue is we wanted broader attendance,” Wetangula said.

Kenya was heavily criticised by foreign governments for failing to arrest Bashir when he visited Nairobi in late August for a ceremony to enact a new Kenyan constitution. [ID:nMCD730308]

Kenya, a signatory to the Rome statute establishing the ICC, is itself facing investigation by the court in relation to the post-election violence of early 2008.
“We have not and we will not divert any meetings out of Nairobi because of ICC. ICC does not have a hold on Kenya, we are a signatory to a treaty establishing it so we cannot live under fear over a treaty that we are just a party to,” he said.

Wetangula said the country’s interests would always come first. “Our strategic interests are more important than the ill-founded criticism that people level at us.”