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Kenya lobbies the World over Bashir

By | September 9th 2010
By | September 9th 2010

By David Ochami

Kenya is on a diplomatic offensive against Western States ahead of UN Security Council meeting next week, following the storm raised by her hosting wanted Sudanese leader Omar al Bashir.

With presidential clearance, Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula has had a series of talks with envoys of African and Asiatic States based in Kenya, to sell the leadership’s view that it hosted Bashir because of her role as arbiter of the Sudanese conflict.

The message Kenya also wanted to drive home was that it was not against the International Criminal Court, which has warrants of arrest against Bashir, but was obeying a resolution of the African Union.

The high-profile UN organ, tasked with issues to do with international peace and security and whose options include international sanctions and military intervention, may choose to discuss Africa’s failure to co-operate in arresting Bashir over genocide claims.

Kenya’s precarious position, if this would be on the table, could come from the fact that after hosting and letting Bashir go, ICC reported the country to the UN Security Council.

After hosting Bashir, Kenya has also been left with another task – that of pacifying the semi-autonomous Southern Sudanese Government, which is preparing for a referendum on self-determination in 2011.

Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir at the promulgation of the new laws in Nairobi on August 27. [PHOTO: FILE]

The Government of Salva Kiir, who skipped Kenya’s promulgation ceremony, which Bashir attended, is accusing the Sudanese leader of staking out to scatter the referendum. It is in fact reported to be even readying for a new war should the plebiscite fail to take off in accordance with the timetable of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in Kenya in 2005.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led by Wetangula who is a member of the Party of National Unity, has secretly dispatched emissaries to Juba to calm South Sudan over the August 27 visit, The Standard can also disclose. But the ministry has encountered some tough questions, including from non-signatories of the Rome Statute that set up ICC, like Israel, questioning Kenya’s appeasement of Bashir in the flurry of meetings with diplomats.

After President Kibaki urged the world at an African forum in Swaziland on August 31 not to isolate Sudan, Wetangula had separate meetings with African, Asian and Australia as well as North and South American diplomats.

Not to be left behind, Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement has also dispatched a key Cabinet minister to meet Kiir, which is another sign of widening rift in the Grand Coalition. It is said the suspicions have been aggravated by a provocative document alleging growing links between Juba, Uganda’s opposition, and key ODM officials.

january vote

The secretive foray into Southern Sudan comes amid feelings in Juba that Kenya, which chairs Igad sub-committee on Sudan, is reluctant to force the implementation of CPA, leading to the January referendum. Wetangula confirmed he would travel to Southern Sudan – likely before the upcoming UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday – to meet Kiir.

After Juba, Wetangula says he would also travel to Khartoum to meet Bashir.

The minister denies Kenya has adopted a "new trajectory in its foreign relations" with the West despite his string off meetings in Nairobi last week, with mainly envoys from Third World countries, which are not members of ICC. Separately ministry of officials held telephone conversations with North Africa and Eastern European nations heading presidency of UN General Assembly and Security Council to plead for understanding ahead of the New York meeting.

More poignantly, China, which has veto powers in the UN, has assured Kenya of support should there be trouble over hosting Bashir.

"Kenya, as a neighbour and guarantor to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, on the Sudan, require the support and not condemnation by the international community in her efforts to broker peace between the Southern and Northern Sudan,’’ the visiting Vice-Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Congress Chen Zhili assured President Kibaki.

Separately, though it has not been announced, Kibaki is expected to travel to the UN meeting in New York. Initially, he had intended to send VP Kalonzo Musyoka to represent Kenya.

Beginning last week, Wetangula, "on instructions from the President", hosted the Asian, African, Middle East and South American envoys but under the guise of drumming up support for implementation of the new Constitution. But sources say the meetings served as platforms to attack the US and West over "double standards" on Bashir, and justification for his invitation to Nairobi.

In a meeting with the Asians, top ministry officials declared that Kenya "will never, never arrest Bashir" and vowed that "he is welcome back anytime". This prompted a delegate from Israel to question Kenya’s stand on the Sudan referendum.

Wetangula allegedly reported that Kibaki’s meeting with Bashir had unlocked a deadlock of key issues delaying the CPA implementation and the referendum. Australian delegates sat bemused by Kenya’s hard line policies on al Bashir. Meanwhile, sources say, the Government has sent an envoy to Ankara to lobby Turkey, which heads the UN Security Council and which, apart from not being an ICC member, has also hosted Bashir.

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