(First published online 29/8/10)
Yes, it was a blunder. It was a BIG blunder to invite President Bashir to the Promulgation at Uhuru Park. I know that, you know that, we all know that!
However, after pondering on the issue and listening to all the patronizing remarks being thrown around and all the denials and chest thumping, I beg to offer a different perspective.
Sudan is our neighbor and we are the ones who have to share a border with them. America and the rest of the world can talk and grandstand but they are far away from Sudan. Think about your neighbors, you may have a neighbor who is warped and weird but you have to find a way to relate with him. This is because if your house is on fire, you are being robbed or you fall sick he is the one who is able to sort you out quickest. As the saying goes, ‘Fimbo ya mbali haiui nyoka’. That is consideration number one.
The African Union (A.U) met in Kampala in July 2010 and among its various resolutions was the issue regarding the arrest warrant issued by ICC on President Bashir. After a prolonged debate, the AU summit read out a statement which in part read, “the AU reiterates its decision that AU member states shall not cooperate with the ICC in the arrest and surrender of President al-Bashir of the Sudan.” Furthermore, it urged member states to balance their obligations to the ICC and those to the AU. Putting it bluntly and to get past the diplomatic speak, the AU of which Kenya is a member decided in its Kampala summit to totally shield President Bashir and Kenya’s hands are practically tied. That is consideration number two.
Oil! That is the major word in International politics and law. Wars have being fought, presidents assassinated, elections lost based on OIL. Sudan has oil. Sudan is Kenya’s neighbor. Kenya wants to get a foothold in the Sudan oil. That’s the simple bottom-line. That is the reason why Kenya has played a fundamental role in the Sudan peace process. It is also the reason why the Kenyan government has fallen over backwards to appease the Sudanese government and people. Think of the many instances where Kenyans have being killed in Sudan and the government has turned a blind eye. It would therefore be defeatist to undo all the goodwill that Kenya has built in Sudan over the years by refusing to invite President Bashir or by arresting him. That is consideration number three.
I can hear you getting all offended and scrambling to get onto your moral high ground BUT Kenya is doing nothing new.
Look at Col Gaddafi and the British. For decades Col Gaddafi has being in the bad books of the Brits due to Libya’s involvement in the 1988 Lockerbie Pan Am plane bombing which resulted in a total of 270 people dying. In 2004, former British PM, Tony Blair suddenly hailed Col Gaddafi as a visionary leader and talked about forgetting the past. What the Western Press did not highlight was that British Petroleum had gotten a deal to invest about £545million to search for oil in Libya and that if the firm struck it rich, the deal could allegedly be worth £13billion.
Another example is President Obama’s inaugural visit to Africa in 2009. It was widely stated that President Obama ignored Kenya and went to Ghana due to their excellent democratic space. This was a half-truth. Yes, Ghana currently is experiencing a good democratic space but compared to Kenya it is nowhere near as good. So why did President Obama visit Ghana? That magic word again – OIL. Ghana discovered oil in 2008 and America had to get a foothold into its oil market before any other super power.
So what Kenya is doing regarding Sudan and President Bashir is nothing new. I certainly do not condone it but I understand it. So to all the international and local busybodies I say – read between and below the lines and spare me the noise!
GOD BLESS KENYA!
PS: If an American or British company got a major oil deal in Sudan, all this hullaballoo over President Bashir would fizzle out.
PS: Can someone tell Raila and ODM that Kenyans are getting cleverer and their cheap PR spin is NOT working? I cannot believe that BOTH the two principals did not know about President Bashir’s invitation. Also we all saw Hon. Balala who is ODM damu walking in President Bashir into Uhuru Park.