Kenyan Foreign Minister to Meet al-Bashir Over Arrest Ruling

Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said he will meet Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir tomorrow to defuse tensions over a Kenyan court ruling calling for al-Bashir’s arrest.

Kenya plans to “immediately” appeal the decision that threatens to destabilize regional security and damage relations with a trading partner and ally, Wetangula said in an interview in Bujumbura, the Burundian capital, today.

“We don’t support the ruling because you cannot arrest a sitting president of a neighboring country regardless of the circumstances,” he said. “It’s an insensitive ruling.”

Sudan expelled Kenya’s ambassador this week after the court called for the arrest of al-Bashir, 67, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. Foreign observers and human-rights groups previously criticized Kenya after it failed to detain al-Bashir when he attended a ceremony in August 2010 to enact Kenya’s new constitution.

Kenya, as a member of the Hague-based war crimes court, is obliged to cooperate with the ICC arrest warrant if al-Bashir enters Kenyan territory. Al-Bashir denies the charges.

The 54-nation African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a political grouping of seven eastern African nations, have called for the suspension of the arrest warrant.

Since his initial indictment in March 2009, al-Bashir has been forced to cancel trips abroad as human-rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, pressed countries to withdraw invitations or arrest him on arrival.

Fighting between rebels and government forces in Darfur since 2003 has led to the deaths of as many as 300,000 people, mainly due to illness and starvation, and forced about 2.7 million to flee their homes, according to United Nations estimates. The Sudanese government has put the death toll at about 10,000.

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