Sudan’s unfeasible ultimatum to Kenya

By Simon Allison 5 December 2011

The diplomatic spat between Kenya and Sudan over Bashir’s arrest warrant continues, with a Sudanese ultimatum making a mockery of Kenyan attempts to rectify the situation. The ultimatum was clear: Kenya has two weeks to sort the problem out, or else. But Kenya might find that rather tricky. By SIMON ALLISON.

Kenya’s foreign minister returned home from an emergency visit to Khartoum, satisfied he had soothed ruffled feathers and averted a potentially dangerous diplomatic incident. The visit was precipitated by a Kenyan court ruling ordering the country’s security forces to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir should he ever set foot on Kenyan territory. Sudan was none too happy and threatened immediate retribution.

“Sudan had set out a raft of reprisals against Kenya that would have had a negative effect on our economy and country…We were able to stop these,” said a relieved Moses Wetangula on his return to Nairobi.

But Sudan is only temporarily mollified. Bashir gave Kenya two weeks to resolve the situation in his favour or face punitive measures which will include cutting trade and diplomatic ties and banning planes leaving or bound for Kenya from Sudanese airspace. Sudanese trade with Kenya is in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and a large proportion of Kenyan air traffic goes through Sudan as it lies between Kenya and Europe.

This puts Kenya’s government in a very tricky position. It’s not keen on implementing the court decision at all, preferring to respect the position of the African Union and the Horn of Africa’s regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development. So it will appeal, but its chances are slim. Although there is some precedent that sitting heads of state being granted immunity, Kenya’s obligations to the International Criminal Court appear to override this. And it’s highly unlikely the appeal can be lodged, argued and judged within the two week period. So Moses Wetangula might just find himself back in Khartoum sooner than he thought

In the meantime, all eyes will be on Kenya’s judiciary to see just how much government pressure it can withstand. DM



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