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Kenya’s Prime Minister Calls Bashir Participation Ill-Advised

African leaders including indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir joined tens of thousands of Kenyans when Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki to signed the new constitution into law, Nairobi, 27 Aug 2010

Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga said it was ill-advised that Sudan’s embattled President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir was invited to participate in the promulgation of Kenya’s constitution last Friday.

In an exclusive interview with VOA, Prime Minister Odinga said that the Sudanese leader should be held accountable for the crimes committed under his rule.

“You know, I’m on record as having said that President Bashir needs to answer for the crimes that were committed under his charge and, if only he has been cleared by the ICC (International Criminal Court), that he should be allowed to attend any, or other, meetings of heads of state. So, my position has not changed at all,” he said.

U.S President Barack Obama expressed disappointment that Kenya hosted Mr. Bashir in defiance of the International Criminal Court arrest warrants issued against him alleging war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

In a statement, Mr. Obama said Kenya’s government “has committed itself to full cooperation with the ICC, and we consider it important that Kenya honor its commitments to the ICC and to international justice, along with all nations that share those responsibilities. In Kenya, and beyond, justice is a critical ingredient for lasting peace.”

Former U.N Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed surprise and joined the international community in questioning President Bashir’s participation in the public celebration of Kenya’s new constitution.

Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga
Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga

Some officials in Kenya’s coalition government also condemned the Sudanese leader’s participation after accusing some within the Kenyan administration of keeping his visit under tight wraps. A group of Kenyans also demonstrated demanding Mr. Bashir’s arrest.

Local media reported that some European Union envoys, as well as human rights activists, boycotted the state luncheon following the promulgation of the new constitution to protest President Bashir’s attendance.

Prime Minister Odinga said he was demanding answers from his party’s partner in the unity government adding that they were surprised when Mr. Bashir’s name was mentioned during the ceremony.

“I have said we want a proper explanation as to how this was done and why we were not informed that Mr. Bashir was going to come because we are a partner in a coalition and we had agreed on a list of guests who were supposed to be invited to the ceremony and (Mr.) Bashir was not one of them,” Prime Minister Odinga said.

But, Kenya’s Foreign Minister, Moses Wetang’ula, was quoted as saying President Bashir was invited alongside other heads of state from neighboring countries “because it was in Kenya’s best interests that Sudan gets lasting peace.”

Prime Minister Odinga said the country would have to apologize to the international community over Mr. Bashir’s invitation and participation.

“Over issues like this there must be proper and thorough consultation before anything like this happens. And, we also want an apology made to the international community, particularly ICC, because we are a signatory and party to the Rome Statute,” Prime Minister Odinga said.