Official: Sudan leader not traveling to Kenya

AP News
Posted: Apr 08, 2013 11:36 AM
Official: Sudan leader not traveling to Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Sudan's president, who faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, will not be traveling to Kenya to watch the swearing-in of the country's new president, who will go to trial later this year at the ICC, a Kenyan official said Monday.

Thuita Mwangi, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' permanent secretary, said Omar al-Bashir will not be coming to Kenya for the swearing-in of Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday despite press reports to the contrary. Mwangi said Sudan's government is invited but not al-Bashir.

Al-Bashir's presence at the inauguration would be significant because Kenya is a party to the treaty that created the ICC and would be legally obligated to arrest him.

If al-Bashir were to travel to Kenya for Tuesday's presidential inauguration, it could also raise an international outcry that Kenyatta is flaunting the country's obligations to the ICC. Kenyatta is scheduled to appear in The Hague, Netherlands this year on charges over allegations he helped orchestrate the 2007-08 violence that marred Kenya's last presidential election.

Kenyatta's trial is scheduled for July. Kenyatta's deputy president, William Ruto, faces similar charges. His trial is set for late May.

Sudan's president traveled to Kenya in August 2010 as the country held a lavish ceremony to usher in its new constitution. The government was forced to defend its decision to allow al-Bashir into the country without arresting him. A foreign affairs official at the time said arresting al-Bashir would have adverse effects for peace between Sudan and South Sudan.

After that visit, a court in Kenya ruled that the government is obligated to arrest Bashir if he's in the country. The government is appealing that ruling. Mwangi declined to say whether al-Bashir was not coming because of the Kenyan court ruling or out of fears of angering either the prosecutor or judges at the ICC.

ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said Monday that Kenya, as a party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC, would have an obligation under international law "to cooperate with the court including implementing arrest warrants."

"The fact that Omar al-Bashir is a sitting head of state does not give him any legal immunity under the Rome Statute as the ICC judges had indicated in previous decisions," Abdallah said.

E.J. Hogendoorn, an Africa analyst with the International Crisis Group, wondered what Kenyatta would gain from inviting al-Bashir.

"It would certainly antagonize Western governments. Despite all of Jubilee's anti-western rhetoric, Kenya still needs their assistance and investments," he said, referring to Kenyatta's political party.