Defiant Bashir visits Kenya for launch of new constitution

By Mark Oloo (Nairobi) – Kenya today promulgated a new constitution at a colourful ceremony attended by controversial Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir.

But today’s visit to Nairobi by the Sudanese leader wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) has raised questions over Kenya’s commitment to the Rome Statute, which established the Hague-based court.

Under the statute, Kenya, having domesticated the Rome statute, is required to have arrested Bashir for handing over to the ICC over crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Sudan’s Darfur region.

His conspicuous presence among other African leaders at the event elicited mixed reactions from the civil society, politicians and human rights watchdogs. Kenya National Commission on Human Rights official Omar Hassan said Bashir’s visit to Kenya has cast the East African country in negative light.

Dr Karithi Kanyinge, a political analyst, said Kenya should issue a statement and disassociate itself from people indited for bad governance and crimes against humanity. The Kenyan government, however, is yet to comment on the matter.

Bashir, who has defied the ICC warrant of arrest, arrived in Nairobi shortly before 10.30am to a happy reception. Other leaders at the promulgation ceremony included Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and former UN secretary general Kofi Anan.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga took a fresh oath of office, as the new constitution took over from the country Independence supreme law crafted in Lancaster in 1963. The new laws were passed at a referendum on August 4.

The East African country is now expected to walk a tight rope as it begins to implement the new laws. In 2008, more that 1,300 people were killed in Kenya following ethnic chaos from a disputed presidential elections.