Besieged Bashir had ally in Uhuru

Fallen Sudan strongman Omar Al-Bashir was welcome to Kenya even as other nations shunned him following his war crimes indictment.

Yesterday, celebrations rocked Khartoum and other major cities as Bashir was finally ousted with senior figures in his regime arrested by the military while all political prisoners were freed.

And even as his 30-year-old grip on power had began to slip, Kenya was among regional countries that Bashir turned to, underscoring the friendly relations between the two countries’ administrations.

On February 6, as protests raged across Sudan, President Uhuru Kenyatta assured Bashir of Kenya’s support as calls mounted for him to quit.

“Kenya will continue to support Sudan as it manages its internal affairs because the sovereignty of all Igad (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) member states is something of great importance to us. As a member of Igad, Sudan is a pillar of stability in the region,” President Kenyatta said.

The President spoke as he received a special message from the 75-year-old leader, which was delivered by Vice-President Osman Mohammed Yousif at State House, Nairobi.

On April 11 last year, Deputy President William Ruto met Al-Bashir in Khartoum where they held bilateral talks that focused on trade.

“I take this opportunity to ask Kenya to consider purchasing uniforms, including those of the military, from our country as we commit ourselves to increasing purchase of tea from your country,” Bashir was quoted telling Ruto.

In October of the same year, Uhuru and Bashir held bilateral talks at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum where they witnessed the signing of agreements to deepen the two countries’ collaboration in the oil and mining sectors.

Surprise visit

Six years earlier, on August 27, 2010, as the country witnessed the promulgation of its new Constitution, Bashir made a surprise visit that caught many in the local and international communities unaware.

At the time, the Sudanese strongman had been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in the Darfur war where government-backed Janjaweed militia killed thousands of civilians.

Kenya, which was being run by the coalition government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, was obliged by international law to hand Bashir over to the ICC but it failed to do so.

This sparked widespread condemnation with Raila comparing Bashir’s presence to “inviting a witch to your wedding day”.

The following year, High Court Judge Nicholas Ombija issued a warrant for Bashir’s arrest following an application lodged by the International Commission for Jurists Kenya Chapter.

“The order should be effected by the Attorney General and the minister for Internal Security should he ever set foot in Kenya,” Justice Ombija ruled.

Bashir was the first head of state to be indicted by the ICC, which has accused him of genocide and war crimes in Darfur. He has denied the charges, saying they are politically motivated.

About 2.7 million people have fled their homes since the conflict began in Darfur in 2003, and the UN says about 300,000 have died – mostly from disease.

South Africa, which had vowed to arrest Bashir should he set foot in the country, also changed tune in June 2015 and defied a court order to detain the Sudanese leader who was in Johannesburg attending an African Union summit.

Bashir’s indictment made him a pariah in much of the world, but under US President Donald Trump, Washington had warmed to the Sudanese leader.

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