Kenya strongly defends Bashir visit

August 28, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 28 – Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula on Friday dismissed those criticising the government for inviting – and failing to arrest – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during the country’s celebrations for a new Constitution.

Mr Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for gross violations of human rights in Darfur, left Kenya immediately after the ceremony under tight government security.

Mr Wetangula who absolved the Sudanese President of any blame, added that the African Union (AU) had asked the ICC to defer his arrest warrant to avoid compromising regional security.

“Of course all heads of state are invited by their peer and their peer is the Head of State. There are no apologies to make about anybody we invited to this function because I am sure we are enhancing peace, security and stability of this region more than anything else,” he said.

He further argued that arresting Mr Bashir as proposed by the international community and other observers would have a negative impact on the peace talks in Sudan.

“I know that the peace, stability and security in the Sudan is very critical. Equally, justice for the people in Darfur is important. I have no doubt that in time they will find their justice,” he noted.

Meanwhile civil societies under the banner Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice heavily criticised the government’s action arguing that it was an abuse to the new laws.

Kenya Human Rights Commission Executive Director Muthoni Wanyeki said the civil societies would get court orders to have Mr Bashir arrested if he set foot in Kenya again.

“It looks like as we are moving into a new era of respect for human rights, the first thing we do is invite someone who has blatantly abused human rights on a massive scale in his own country. It doesn’t look good at all and it mars what should be a perfect day for Kenyans,” she said.

On his part, International Commission of Jurists, Kenya (ICJ, Kenya) Executive Director George Kegoro said that the failure by the government to arrest Mr Bashir had robbed Kenya of her moment of glory. He added that the act had tainted any chances of Kenya getting an image boost as a result of the constitutional achievement.

“The kind of political judgment that goes into such an invitation is such a monumental miscalculation on the political leadership we have. How could they do this on a day that people had worked for? They basically harnessed together all the energies required to bring together a new constitution and then handed the victory to Bashir. The trophy has gone with Bashir,” he said.

The civil societies also accused the government of dishonoring its pledge to cooperate with the ICC if and when need arose. They argued that Kenya’s drive for a new Constitution was pushed by the post election violence during which atrocities similar to those President Bashir is accused of, were done.

“This development raises serious concerns over our willingness to cooperate with the Court if and when we are called upon to arrest perpetrators of Kenya’s post election violence,” read a joint statement from the civil societies.

They further termed Mr Bashir’s invite an abuse to the international community which had helped broker the National Accord: “It raises concerns over our government’s commitment towards accountability for international crimes and the protection of civilians including thousands of IDPs who remain stripped of their basic rights and human dignity.”

The other lobby groups present were the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), the Center for Multiparty Democracy, Haki Focus and Africog.


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