8 April 2013

Kenya: Sudan's Bashir Coming for Uhuru Fete

The Uhuru administration may have to handle its first diplomatic row if Sudanese President Omar al Bashir who is wanted by the ICC attends tomorrow's ceremony.

According to a Khartoum newspaper Akbar al-Youm which is considered to be pro government, Bashir is expected to arrive today for Tuesday's ceremony at Kasarani and will leave tomorrow for Chad. He is among several heads of state and government who have been invited for the ceremony.

Bashir's attendance will however put the government—that of outgoing President Kibaki and the incoming Uhuru administration— in a quandary as there is an outstanding warrant of arrest against Bashir.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court over alleged war crimes and genocide in Darfur region. The ICC issued an international warrant for his arrest in 2008 which compels all countries who are signatory to the Rome Statute to effect.

However, since then, Bashir has travelled to several friendly African countries including Kenya when he was a surprise guest during the August 2010 ceremony for the promulgation of the new constitution which was held at Uhuru Park. Not even Prime Minister Raila Odinga was aware that Bashir had been invited for the ceremony or even that he was going to honor the invitation.

Subsequent to his visit, the International Commission for Jurists went to court to compel the government to live up to its obligations under the Rome Statute. High Court Judge Nicholas Ombija issued an arrest warrant for Bashir if he stepped into the country.

Attempts by the Attorney General Githu Muigai to appeal against the order and have the warrant lifted were unsuccessful. This means that Bashir is liable for arrest if he comes into the country.

His presence may also complicate matters for Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto who are both facing trial at the ICC. Both have severally declared that they will fully cooperate with ICC even while at State House.

Yesterday, the International Centre for Policy and Conflict executive director Ndung'u Wainaina said the government is obligated to obey the court orders.

"The High Court of Kenya issued a warrant of arrest against Al-Bashir. The CJ (Willy) Mutunga told IG of Police David Kimaiyo, and 'Court orders are law'. Article 132(5) of Constitution states the President shall ensure international obligations are fulfilled," he said.

Even as the final preparations of the fete were going on, there were indications that some of the Cord luminaries—outgoing PM Raila, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula will not attend. They left for a visit to South Africa and are due back tomorrow.

In a symbolic shift of power, all government offices and businesses premises which display the president's portrait will remove Kibaki's and put up Uhuru's portrait. This, according to the organizers of the ceremony, is supposed to be done simultaneously as Uhuru is sworn in as the next president. Kibaki's presidential standard will also be lowered and Uhuru's light blue standard will be raised in its place.

The swearing in ceremony which is estimated to cost taxpayers Sh300 million is expected to start at 10 am and end at 2 pm, according to a programme released by the inauguration committee headed by head of public service Francis Kimemia. Invited guests will then go to the State House where a garden party is expected to be held.

Foreign dignitaries including several African presidents were expected to start arriving last evening. They are expected to be seated at the Kasarani sports centre at 10.45 am.

The Chief of Defence Forces Julius Karangi will arrive at 11am and will be followed five ministers later by Chief Justice Willy Mutanga, the other five Supreme Court judges and the Registrar of Judiciary Gladys Shollei.

Thirty minutes later, a guard of honour mounted by KDF will marche to the stadium led by Lt Col Jeff Nyaga who headed the onslaught against Al Shabaab in Somalia.

Five minutes later, deputy president-elect William Ruto accompanied by his wife Rachel will arrive. He is expected to be followed into the centre by Uhuru and his wife.

At 11.45am, President Kibaki will arrive and mount his ceremonial Land Rover to take the last salute from the military. After the national anthem, Kibaki is expected to inspect his last guard of honor before the ceremony proper starts.

After taking his oath of office presented by CJ Mutunga, Uhuru will be decorated with the Chief of the Golden Heart medal by Kibaki, will be presented with the ceremonial sword and a copy of the constitution. A 21-gun salute to honor the incoming president will be followed by the National Anthem.

Ruto will be sworn into office by Shollei and will take over the programme which will see President Museveni invite Kibaki to deliver his valedictory (closing) speech. After the ceremony at Kasarani, Kibaki will attend the luncheon at State which will be hosted by his successor and leave.

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