August 27th 2010 will mark a great day in the minds of all Kenyans and probably most Africans. Well to the international human rights community, the international media and the International Criminal Court, it will be a dark moment. To Africans, it will be great seeing that a pure success story had come to light. Kenya, once termed as East Africa’s peace haven, had just erupted into turmoil at the blink of an eyelid. That was in 2007/2008. Now, they had gone to the polls again and overwhelmingly voted in favor of the new constitution.
The first constitution to have come from an entire internal process. Not something that had been carried over fromn Europe and imposed upon the people. This was a document achieved through local efforts even though some will say it is for the people but not by the people. It was such a relief seeing that the New Africa was coming of age. Of course, the constitution had to be implemented in front of the people and the whole world too.
Thus August 27th would be the day to implement it. Celebrations had to be planned and as is the custom, leaders from the entire East African region would be invited. Jakaya Kikwete had suffered a minor accident after falling on the dais while campaigning so he could not attend. What would make it curious is to who was invited; Rwanda’s tall and lanky president Paul Kagame, Kenya’s immediate neighbour Uganda’s president was invited and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was there. President Omar el Bashir was also invited. Shockingly upon many people, Comoros’ president Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi was also there.
Apart from the Comoros president, the other three Heads of States invited are all under suspicions of human rights violations. Bashir has even been indicted by the ICC against the killings in Darfur. Human rights officials and groups were incensed that he would be allowed to travel to Kenya. Funny thing to note is that Kenya’s documents also lie at the table of ICC Chief Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo over the 2007 Post-Election Violence.
Protesters were all over Nairobi’s Central Business District protesting against Bashir’s presence but were dispersed within minutes. Kagame and Museveni may not have that much of a public profile with regards to any crimes but it was felt that the government of Kenya were in bad taste to invite Bashir and Kagame. International media also noted that there was a ceremony in Kenya but their eyes were trained on Omar el Bashir. Most of the coverage was on his
Few questions arise out of this. Was the Kenyan government in good taste when they invited Bashir as a “Head of State”, as Kenya’s Foreign Minister said it? Would it have been better if they had invited some of Africa’s fledgling democracies like Somalia, Somaliland and Burundi? Was the international media justified in the way they covered the event? Is the African Union justified in their shielding of Bashir despite his status at the ICC? If you were the President of Kenya and you invited Bashir, would you have had Bashir arrested even though your country is a signatory to both the ICC and African Union, which says that no African Head of State (read Bashir) would be prosecuted by the ICC?
Photo- courtsey of Wikipedia