Tough trying to be good in a bad neighborhood

A few days ago a Kenyan judge ordered the government to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir if he ever sets foot in Kenya. Mr. Bashir has an outstanding arrest warrant against him from the ICC for crimes against humanity committed since 2003 in Darfur.

The ruling has since metastasized into a full blown diplomatic row; Khartoum expelled the Kenyan ambassador before rescinding the expulsion, and is now threatening to cut all trade ties with Kenya, expel Kenyans living in Sudan and deny any planes leaving or going to Kenya from flying in its airspace – if the government does not take back the ruling in two weeks.

The diplomatic row aside, the case has implications for the reform process in Kenya. The case is a test of the depth of the Kenyan judiciary’s new found independence from the executive.

According to Khartoum:

“al-Bashir expects Nairobi to scrap the arrest warrant within the next two weeks and not simply file an appeal.”

That is not how the judicial process works in a democracy. The executive cannot just scrap a judicial ruling. Within Kenya, for the sake of precedence the government must be seen to be complying with court rulings. The Chief Justice has already warned the executive against ignoring the court ruling saying that

“If a country chooses to live by anarchy, it must be ready to face the consequences of disregarding the law.”

It remains unclear what the executive will do given Khartoum’s two week ultimatum. Disregarding the court ruling will come with consequences for the individuals involved – in particular the Foreign Minister and the Commissioner of Police.

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