NAIROBI, (Reuters) – Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan has urged Kenya to respect the judiciary’s independence, after political leaders condemned a Nairobi court ruling calling for the arrest of Sudan’s president.
Last week the Kenyan court ordered the government to arrest President Omar al-Bashir if he sets foot in Kenya, and hand him over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague where he is wanted on genocide charges.
The decision, which came more than a year after Kenya failed to arrest Bashir during a visit, led Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula to call it a “judgment in error”. He vowed to appeal the court order and flew to Khartoum to contain the fallout.
The row comes as Kenya awaits a decision by the ICC on whether to confirm charges of crimes against humanity against six high-profile Kenyans, including two contenders in next year’s elections.
“I have a feeling people need to get used to the new system. You have a new system with separation of powers, an independent judiciary, executive and legislature, and it’s new,” Annan told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference on national dialogue and reconciliation late on Tuesday.
“And so when the court asserts its independence, some people who are used to the old way of doing business still think it’s business as usual … I don’t think you can mix law, diplomacy, politics,” said Annan, who mediated an end to violence that left 1,220 people dead after Kenya’s Dec. 2007 election.
KENYA “BOUND BY ICC STATUTE”
As an ICC member state, Kenya is legally obliged to cooperate with the court and its arrest warrants.
But the African Union (AU) has told its members to ignore the warrant against Bashir, on the grounds that the court is unfairly targeting African rulers.
On Monday the AU reiterated it would “comply scrupulously with the African common position on the respect of the immunity” of Bashir and other incumbent African heads of state.