Al-Bashir must be told that Kenya is no longer prepared to appease him By MACHARIA GAITHO | Tuesday, December 6 2011 at 09:41
After prostrating himself before Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, our Foreign minister Moses Wetang’ula came home from Khartoum with a very positive spin.
He reported that the little diplomatic tiff over the Kenya High Court’s issue of an arrest warrant against the Sudanese strongman had been mostly resolved.
The Foreign minister, who was accompanied on the bow-and-scrape mission to Khartoum by Defence minister Yusuf Haji, did not quite explain why he did not bring those arguments in court.
If Mr Wetang’ula thought he had performed enough to appease President Bashir, he must have got a rude shock when an unimpressed Sudan Government revealed what exactly had taken place in Khartoum: Sudan had given Kenya a fortnight’s ultimatum to lift the arrest warrant issued by Mr Justice Nicholas Ombija, or else.
Obviously, the soldier-turned-civilian leader does not understand basic concepts of democracy, the rule of law and separation of powers.
Perhaps that’s why he employed oppressive powers to drive the genocide against Darfurians that caught the attention of the International Criminal Court.
The “wanted” president must be told in no uncertain terms that Kenya will not again bend over backwards to appease him.
As we call President Bashir’s bluff, we must also prepare to confront whatever actions the Sudan leader may take. Kenya Airways and other airlines that overfly the Sudan to and from Kenya must begin seeking alternative routes.
It is curious that President Bashir has reacted so violently to Kenya while he has been largely silent on other countries that have indicated they may enforce the ICC arrest warrant.
According to the ICJ-Kenya, which filed the case, the Kenyan court action is not unprecedented. The South African Litigation Centre made a similar application in May 2009 following word that President Bashir planned to attend the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma.
President Bashir cancelled the trip, and Sudan did not sever diplomatic links or issue any threats against South Africa
And the following year, the Ugandan Foreign minister Henry Okello Oryem announced that President Bashir might be arrested if he made a planned visit to Uganda.
President Yoweri Museveni renounced the statement and apologised to President Bashir, who however put off any trip to Kampala. But, again, he did not expel the Ugandan ambassador or issue any threats of sanctions.
So why he aggressive stance against Kenya? Because the Sudanese leader is seeking to capitalise on his links to the forces of impunity that call the shots in Kenya.
In the next month or so, the ICC pre-trial chamber will be deciding whether the ‘Ocampo Six’ — Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Eldoret North MP William Ruto, former minister Henry Kosgey, public service boss Francis Muthaura, former Police Commissioner Hussein Ali and radio presenter Joshua Sang — could face trial over Kenya’s descent into post-election butchery.
When the government last year ignored the ICC and invited President Bashir for the ceremony celebrating the new Constitution, it was not just an act of good neighbourliness, but an action to demonstrate solidarity.
If the ICC rules that the Ocampo Six must stand trial, the grouping that calls the shots in the coalition might be tempted to defy any warrants of arrest.
For them, the High Court judgment set a dangerous precedent. No wonder that in public statements and comments on the social media, PNU supporters are livid; interpreting it not just as a questionable ruling, but as an extension of the PNU-ODM wars.
Some are openly expressing suspicion that the judgment was a reflection of the reformed Judiciary under new Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.
There might be plenty wrong with Mr Justice Ombija’s ruling. It could be reflection of the judicial activism that sometimes sees our courts intrude on the Executive or Legislative spheres, or try to micro-manage other institutions.
But, still, there is only one way to vacate a court order — through the courts.
That is something President Bashir’s local friends should digest and also hammer into his head.
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