, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 2 – Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir has now rescinded his decision to expel the Kenyan envoy and nationals from his country to protest a High Court ruling in Nairobi urging local police to arrest him if he sets foot in the country.
Bashir was soothed by Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula and his Defense counterpart Yusuf Hajji who had traveled to Khartoum on instructions of President Mwai Kibaki.
The Kenyan envoy was to leave Khartoum on Thursday night after he was given 72 hours to pack and go but that has now been halted.
“Our ambassador was leaving Khartoum by midnight last night (Thursday) but we have managed to stop that. We held lengthy talks with President Bashir and his Foreign Affairs Minister,” Wetangula told reporters at the Wilson airport Friday on arrival from Khartoum.
“It was not an easy task convincing President Bashir but I am happy to report that we were successful and our relations are now back to normal. From our talks we realised that he had lined up a raft of measures against Kenya and most of them could have been severe for our country. We have more to lose than they could do.”
Among the most serious measures Wetangula said were likely to affect Kenya greatly included plans to expel more than 1,000 Kenyans including more than 500 students and UN peacekeepers serving in the UN-African Union mission in the war-torn western Darfur region.
“We have assured him and I can tell you this is not going to happen,” the Minister said, adding that relations between Nairobi and Khartoum are “back to normal”.
He added that Bashir had “ordered all flights from Kenya not to fly in Sudan airspace, regardless of whichever airline they were coming from.”
“The trade relations between Kenya and Sudan could have suffered, we export coffee, and we export fruits to Sudan. Last year alone Kenya got Sh200 million from coffee exports to Sudan, these are the issues we are looking at,” he said.
The bitter spat between the two countries resulted from an arrest warrant issued for the Sudanese leader by High Court Judge Nicolas Ombija who ordered the Internal Security Minister to ensure police arrests Bashir if he steps to Kenya after the government failed to execute an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant when he visited Nairobi last year.
The move triggered a furious response from Khartoum, who pulled out their representative in Nairobi, and ordered Kenya’s ambassador to leave within 72 hours, prompting Kenya to send a high-level delegation to heal the rift.
“Sudan had set up a number of reprisals against Kenya, which could have affected our economy greatly… but during our talks we managed to stop that,” the Minister said.
Bashir is wanted in The Hague-based ICC for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Darfur, where the UN says at least 300,000 people have been killed in the eight-year conflict.
Bashir, 67, is the first sitting Head of State to be indicted by the ICC and also the first to be charged with genocide.
Kenya has ratified the ICC’s founding Rome Statute, which theoretically obliges it to execute the court’s warrants.
Despite that, Wetangula said the Kenyan government would appeal against the warrant issued by its own courts.
“The government is appealing the ruling, there is nothing wrong for the government to criticize a court ruling, once a ruling is issued anyone including you is justified to tear it into pieces in terms of questioning it. That is why we have a court of appeal,” Wetangula said in an apparent response to Chief Justice Willy Mutunga’s Thursday statement which castigated the Executive for what he termed as an attempt to interfere with judicial independence.