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Kenya Lawmaker Hails Court Ruling, Sudan Scoffs At Warrant

Kenya's Prime Minister, Raila Odinga makes an address to the public as President Mwai Kibaki and other members of parliament listen (file photo)

A Kenyan lawmaker is hailing as a demonstration of judicial independence an appeal court’s refusal to suspend the arrest warrant against indicted Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir.

“The wing of government that was always opposed to the reforms in the country obviously was not happy that the judiciary is asserting itself, and that for the first time the judiciary was not taking orders from the executive,” said legislator Gitobu Imanyara. “The vast majority of the people are extremely excited that a court could issue a warrant of arrest to comply with our international obligations on human rights.”

The country’s High Court ordered the government to arrest him because Kenya is a member state of the Hague-based International Criminal Court, which has indicted him for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

The Office of the Attorney General had appealed the decision, citing concerns over the harm the ruling will have on diplomatic relations between Nairobi and Khartoum. It also says Kenya’s investments in Sudan worth billions of shillings could be adversely affected.

Lawmaker Imanyara dismisses the government’s concerns.

“The people of Kenya I can tell you do not value a relationship with fugitives from international justice. In any case, the economic benefit to our country is very minimal,” said Imanyara. “What is happening is that these people within the Kenyan government who appear to be more concerned about their individual relationship with President Bashir want to commit the Kenyan nation to what is not in Kenya’s national interest.”

A leading member of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party says the relationship between the two countries will be strained if Kenya enforces the decision of the courts.

Bashir threatened in an ultimatum to impose a series of sanctions against Kenya unless the arrest warrant against him was dropped. The sanctions include banning flights to or from Kenya from flying over Sudan.

Rabie Abdelati Obeidi said his government is not worried about the courts’ decision. He insisted a Kenyan envoy apologized to Mr. Bashir following the court ruling. Obeid expressed confidence that Nairobi will not enforce the arrest warrant.

“I don’t think that the Kenyan government will even respect this warrant of arrest issued by the Kenyan court,” said Obeid. “[Kenyan officials including the Minister of Foreign Affairs] promised [our] government when they came here they will not allow this Kenyan court to enforce that warrant of arrest.”

But, lawmaker Imanyara said opinion polls show Kenyans overwhelmingly supports both the High and Appellate Courts ruling over the Bashir arrest warrant.