Foreign Policy Embarrassment: Kenya Negotiates With Terrorists, Sometimes

It’s no secret that Kenya has become the laughing stock of the East and Central African region. We are that country that has no clue on how to build, maintain and restore its national image abroad in addition to being ambivalent where issues of national sovereignty are concerned.

The latest case is the government taking sides with a war criminal against both international and national laws.

But let’s rewind back a bit:

A few months back, during a spell of severe drought which resulted in the #feedKE campaign, there still were Cabinet Ministers openly blaming relief agencies and media organisations for blowing things out of proportion while pictures of emaciated women and children were beamed to the entire world. Prior to and during the confirmation hearings of the Ocampo Six, our government tacitly encouraged its senior officials to continue displaying their ignorance by accusing the ICC of having a political agenda and attempting to subvert an international instrument that we have signed and ratified. In that connection, let’s not forget how a certain Vice President went on two rounds of “Shuttle Diplomacy” to try and stop the ICC cases from proceeding at the Hague only to end up embarassing our country in the eyes of the world.

We could also mention the Migingo case, not to say that our Ugandan neighbours are terrorists but only to highlight how unassertive and weak the Government’s “diplomatic” efforts have been in reclaiming what squarely falls within our territorial waters.

However in recent weeks, our foreign policy (or lack thereof, as many would argue) seemingly stooped to its lowest when we decided to invade another sovereign state in the name of national security. Our argument then was that the heightened state of insecurity occasioned by the Al-Shabaab in Somalia required a military response, so we took on a war on terror that the US itself is grappling with against Al- Qaeda’s little brother, Al-Shabaab.

Now fast forward to today:

Kenya has received a 2 week ultimatum from Sudan to reverse a recent High Court of Kenya ruling which issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Al-Bashir should he set foot on Kenyan soil, pursuant to the Rome Statute, which we have signed, ratified and domesticated by virtue of article 2(6) of the Constitution.

The government led by the Foreign Ministry has publicly rubbished the court decision terming it as “insensitive”(i.e the court failed to take into account factors such as international relations, peace and security in the region,etc.) and “unenforceable”, declaring that it intends to appeal against the decision. Meanwhile, our Foreign Minister takes a chartered plane to Khartoum bearing a personal message from President Kibaki assuring the Sudanese President that all is well.

All this begs the question: why is Kenya taking sides with Al-Bashir over it’s own national and international commitments?

I understood that inviting him last year to the ceremony of our Constitution’s promulgation a year ago may have been necessary to ensure that he doesn’t interfere with our on-going efforts in brokering peace in Sudan and the eventual birthing of South Sudan. But why we do we still need to play nice with Al-Bashir now? What is this hold that he has over Kenya that would make the Executive arm of government literally bow at his feet? Why are we even befriending a man whose name is synonymous with the atrocities that took place in Darfur?

As a country that is already carrying the baggage of its own ICC suspects, a questionable war in Somalia, the World Corruption Heavyweight title, widespread abuses of constitutional rights and freedoms, Al-Bashir’s beef with the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court is the last thing we need on our plate right now. Neither the Minister of Foreign Affairs nor the President of the Republic himself can guarantee Sudan a favourable outcome from our Court of Appeal in the case of Al-Bashir’s arrest warrant. We are a nation of laws and unlike Sudan, our days of an Imperial President are long gone. The Constitution is supreme. Let the chips fall where they may.

As for our dented image abroad and countless foreign policy gaffes, one may easily be led to believe that the Kibaki administration couldn’t be bothered. We seem to be oblivious of the fact that the world is watching; in all our lawlessness, callous disregard for human rights, institutionalised avarice and disunity. So, our yearning to reclaim Kenya from the leaders that bedevil it must go beyond vocalising desires to vote them out next year. We must start now. We must push for reforms through the judicial system and through popular protests so the world may know that the people of Kenya are not silent in consent of their government’s misdeeds and that the people of Kenya understand that their destiny is in their own hands.

10 thoughts on “Foreign Policy Embarrassment: Kenya Negotiates With Terrorists, Sometimes

  1. kenya must do what serves its interests best,..the court order against bashir is in bad taste and doesnt at all serve our interest except those of foreign powers.

    • To paraphrase the CJ, the Judiciary’s job is to interpret the law as it is. Those who are unhappy with the court’s ruling have the option of going on appeal.

      What is in bad taste is the Executive outrightly encouraging Kenyans to take the law into their own hands and disregard the law as laid down and interpreted.

  2. I agree with all your points, though I’m not a big believer of popular protests. I think in the end they do a lot of harm, achieve very little, hurt innocent people, and almost always end in violence. Still, I don’t have any better ideas so … *shrug*

    • Protests can be peaceful. For instance, what the Doctors are doing right now. No need for violence 🙂 I just meant that we must not remain silent. We can all find our own ways of speaking out against injustices.

  3. Ironical, isn’t it… We invade another country, hoping that the international community will see our side of the Al-Shabaab story then we intimate that we WILL shelter an individual suspected of international crimes? Why did we ratify the Rome Statute then? If we cant honour our international obligations there’s no need to enter into such treaties for the sake of it… i heard even the Attorney-General is for going against the court ruling!!! The goddamned AG of this country??? This must be a conspiracy to kill us for excessive SMHes… Shame…

    • The AG so far has been a huge let-down. The Executive still thinks that we’re in a Presidential system. Parliament is just as rogue as its ever been.
      I wish for brave Kenyan whistleblowers to expose all the sinister things that are going on behind the closed doors of government………..
      I have this feeling that what we’re openly seeing is merely the tip of the iceberg.

  4. When need a present president not the absent minded one would rather calls a press conference when someone says that he has two wives than support when the judiciary performs its duty.

    • Sir, mark my words: in three, four years from now, you’ll hear people saying how we miss him and wish we could have his laid-back system back. Or even worse, we’ll be wishing we could have the Professor himself back….

  5. It is becoming quite hard to continue loving this country with all the problems day in day out.. But as you put it “Let the chips fall where they may.” and we hope for the best.

  6. We have a govt that is a failure. Truth be told….. We have no idea what our foreign policy is….beyond shuttle diplomacy. My 2 cents worth is that Bashir lives in a jungle[read desert] where his thoughts are law. Kenya on the other hand….has a modicum of lawfulness….. meaning that the executive’s time of running roughshod over other arms of Gvt is now rumour.

    What Wetang’ula should have explained to Bashir is that they will appeal the case, that is all….but can’t guarantee it’s outcome.
    Next, I think Bashir is being paranoid. He has many more serious issues to deal with than a Kenya’s warrant. Already his gvt is in tatters…… no one wants to be in his cabinet and most northerners feel betrayed after South’s seceding!! I even pity the man….he is just trying to keep power and appease his close allies…..but when truth comes to shove……. they’ll throw him out!!

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