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Split in Kenyan coalition over Bashir visit

NAIROBI, Kenya Aug 28 – The decision to invite Sudanese President Omar al Bashir for Friday’s promulgation of the new Constitution has split the grand coalition government, with the Orange Democratic Movement raising objection to the trip.

ODM Secretary General Prof Anyang Nyong’o said the party was unaware the Sudanese leader would be at the event and on only realised he was in Kenya when he made a surprise appearance at Uhuru Park.

Prof Nyong’o revealed that the party knew that Sudan’s Vice President Salva Kiir would represent Sudan at the event and were shocked to see Mr Bashir stroll to the dais.

Interestingly, the Sudanese leader was accompanied to Uhuru Park by ODM lawmaker Najib Balala.
“We would like to point out to Kenyans and the international community that this was indeed a very unfortunate visit that could put into question the commitment of the government to implement the Constitution of the second republic in letter and spirit,” Prof Nyong’o told a news conference on Saturday.

He also disclosed that Prime Minister Raila Odinga was not aware of President Bashir’s visit.

President Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for gross violations of human rights in Darfur.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula on Friday dismissed those criticising the government for inviting – and failing to arrest – Mr Bashir saying he African Union had asked the ICC to defer his arrest warrant to avoid compromising regional security.

Prof Nyong’o however said it was wrong for the country to knowingly host and provide security to a wanted man.

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“As we maintain cordial relations with our neighbouring countries, we must not forget or disregard our equally important adherence to international conventions and commitments,” he said.

Prof Nyong’o said the party would seek an explanation from Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula why the wanted leader was invited to the country.
“There was no knowledge on our part as partners in government on an invitation to al Bashir. The Minister for Foreign Affairs must come out clean and give us a very clear explanation of what happened,” he stressed.

Lands minister James Orengo pointed out that as a signatory to the Rome Statute, the move to host a man wanted by the International Criminal Court could shed a negative image towards Kenya’s own efforts towards prosecuting post election violence perpetrators.

“This is not a good beginning for us because we have compounded an act of impunity and shown quite clearly that all we did yesterday – if we do not correct it was all in vain,” Mr Orengo said.

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