Kenyan officials today welcomed Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to a signing ceremony for Kenya’s new constitution, in direct contravention of the state’s legal obligations as an International Criminal Court signatory, to arrest the indicted sitting head of state. Bashir is wanted by the ICC for multiple counts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Kenya’s public repudiation of international law demonstrates an alarming lack of commitment to accountability for war crimes. It also raises numerous questions about the government’s support for the ICC’s ongoing investigations into post-election violence in Kenya, as well as the motivations behind this gesture of friendship to Bashir, so close to the potential split-up of Sudan.
Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula was unapologetic about his government’s decision: "There are no apologies to make about anybody we invited to this function because I am sure we are enhancing peace and security and stability of this region more than anything else.”
While the first ICC arrest warrant initially resulted in international isolation for Bashir—last November, his attendance at an Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Turkey was canceled in response to international pressures, as was a trip to an African Union summit in Nigeria last October—more recently this trend has reversed. This year, visits to Egypt and Libya have escalated to travel in ICC signatory states, including Chad, and now Kenya. Bashir’s visit to Kenya is a continuation of this growing willingness to flout international law, and an alarming statement of the line the Obama administration is willing to toe with regard to Khartoum.
As David Bosco says on Foreign Policy, there is little doubt that the U.S. knew about the trip in advance. Special Envoy Scott Gration is currently in Sudan, engaged in talks. Yet it appears that no pressures were brought to bear—on a Kenyan government that has strong relations with the U.S.—to prevent the vist from taking place. The lack of U.S. commitment to accountability that took place today sends a clear signal to the Sudanese government that the Obama administration is willing to sacrifice some of its own core policy objectives, mostly notably justice for the people of Sudan, in order to achieve others, namely the upcoming South Sudan referendum. In so doing, the administration sends the go-ahead for future acts of intransigence—for non-implementation of the CPA and an indefinite hold on the Darfur peace process—ultimately weakening the administration’s position vis-à-vis Khartoum and undermining any U.S. strategies going forward.
Enough’s official statement can be found here.
Photo: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.