Kenya, Sudan move to fix fallout from Bashir ruling


Kenya tried yesterday to ease a spat with Sudan via a plan to appeal a Kenyan court ruling ordering the arrest of Sudan’s president, and Khartoum said it was open to a diplomatic resolution.

Khartoum expelled Kenya’s ambassador on Monday after a judge ordered officials in Nairobi to arrest Omar al-Bashir if he sets foot in Kenya, and hand him over to International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague where he is wanted on genocide charges.

Kenya was heavily criticised by the ICC and foreign governments for failing to arrest Bashir when he attended a ceremony to enact a new Kenyan constitution in August last year.

The country was complying with a stance taken by the African Union, which had told its members not to enforce the arrest warrant for Bashir, saying that the ICC appeared to be singling out African leaders.

As an ICC member state, Kenya is legally obliged to cooperate with the court and its arrest warrants. Monday’s court ruling put the government in an awkward position because it is also committed to the regional position of not arresting Bashir.

Moses Wetangula, the Kenyan foreign affairs minister said on Tuesday the government “expresses its deep concern at the very unhelpful High Court ruling” and will do everything within its powers to safeguard relations.
“It is important that the country’s national interests as well as the wider interests of the region that we live in are taken into account in matters of this nature,” he said in a statement, adding the government would review the ruling with a view to appeal.

Thuita Mwangi, the permanent secretary or top official in the ministry, said Sudan’s action was regrettable but within Khartoum’s sovereign rights. He said the countries were in consultations over the issue.
“There is no way that you can interpret that (the expulsion of envoy) as a breakdown in our relations. We have excellent relations with Khartoum,” Mwangi told Reuters.
“We are in contact with Khartoum and we shall in the next few days be engaging them,” he said.

Wetangula said that Kenya, which has some prominent leaders appearing at The Hague as suspects in the country’s 2008 post-election violence, would not take retaliatory action against Khartoum for expelling its ambassador.

The Hague-based court has issued two warrants for Bashir, one dating from March 2009 on five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes, and one issued in July 2010 on three counts of genocide.

Bashir denies the charges, saying they are part of a Western conspiracy.

El-Obeid Morawah, Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesman, said his country was waiting for a final decision by Kenya on the matter, and that his country was willing to resolve the issue using diplomatic channels.
“We are still waiting for their final decision to decide our coming step also,” Morawah told Reuters in Khartoum.
“We are willing to solve the difficulty. As we are diplomats, this is our main object. We will try ourselves to ease tension and to solve the problem, but this may take time.”

Bashir denies the charges, saying they are part of a Western conspiracy.

The African Union says another reason for its opposition to the ICC indictment of Bashir is the negative impact this would have on Sudan’s peace process with Darfur.

ICC judges have reported Kenya to the United Nations Security Council for failing to arrest Bashir.

The Kenyan judge ordered Bashir’s arrest after the Kenyan chapter of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) filed a suit seeking the issue of an arrest warrant against Bashir after Kenya had failed to take him into custody.

Nairobi and Khartoum have solid business ties and strategic links. Kenya imports sugar and oil from Sudan, which buys tea from Kenya.