Kenya’s foreign minister Friday said relations between Nairobi and Khartoum are “back to normal” after a bitter spat resulting from an arrest warrant issued for the Sudanese leader.
A Kenyan judge issued a warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Monday after the government failed to execute an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant when he visited Nairobi last year.
The move triggered a furious response from Khartoum, which pulled out its representative in Nairobi and ordered Kenya’s ambassador to leave within 72 hours, prompting Kenya to send a high-level delegation to heal the rift.
“Sudan had set up a number of reprisals against Kenya, which could have affected our economy greatly… but during our talks we managed to stop that,” Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said after returning to Nairobi from Khartoum.
“So our relations are back to normal, and our ambassador is not leaving,” he said, adding that Sudan’s ambassador would return to Nairobi.
Bashir had “ordered all flights from Kenya not to fly in Sudan airspace, regardless of whichever airline they were coming from,” said Wetangula.
Sudan had also ordered the expulsion of Kenyan peacekeepers serving in the UN-African Union mission in the war-torn western Darfur region, as well as 500 Kenyan students.
Bashir is wanted in The Hague-based ICC for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur, where the United Nations says at least 300,000 people have been killed in the eight-year conflict.
Bashir, 67, is the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC and also the first to be charged with genocide.
Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo, who was transferred to the ICC on Wednesday, is to be the first former head of state to stand before the tribunal.
Kenya has ratified the ICC’s founding Rome statute, which theoretically obliges it to execute the court’s warrants.
Despite that, Wetangula said the Kenyan government would appeal against the warrant issued by its own courts.
Wetangula said Nairobi could not afford to fall out with Sudan, after Kenya sent troops into southern Somalia in October to fight Islamist Shebab insurgents there.
“We are engaged with the TFG (government soldiers) to fight Al-Shebab in Somalia, and this is not the time to have additional enemies in the basket,” he told reporters.
On Friday, the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked judges for an arrest warrant for Sudan’s defence minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur.