July 26, 2009 (WASHINGTON) — The Global 2009 Smart Partnership Dialogue conference started in Uganda without the presence of the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir despite being invited.
- Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir (AFP)
The Sudanese president is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in connection with war crimes committed in Darfur and theoretically faces arrest if he visits any of the 108 countries that ratified the Rome Statute.
Uganda is a member of the ICC but also endorsed the African Union (AU) resolution, which instructs African nations not to cooperate with the court in apprehending Bashir.
But in the days leading up to the summit Ugandan official went back on forth on their position regarding the presence of Al-Bashir on its soil.
The controversy started when the Ugandan state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem suggested that there is a possibility that his government would execute the outstanding arrest warrant for Bashir if he visits.
Afterwards Ugandan officials sought to distance themselves from Oryem’s remarks including president Musievini who reportedly phoned Bashir to apologize.
It turned out that Uganda has agreed with Sudan that Bashir would send another official to attend in his place “to avoid a diplomatic incident” according to Ugandan East Africa and Regional Affairs Minister Isaac Musumba.
Musievini told reporters, according the Ugandan Observer newspaper at the summit today that Bashir “was not shut out, but there were some issues. Because, you remember, some people said in the papers that we had invited General Bashir so that he comes and we arrest him. That’s not according to the culture of the Great Lakes region in Africa here.”
“When I want to fight you, I insult you, I don’t invite you, I tell you beforehand. We don’t believe in surprise attacks.”
He hinted at Kampala’s communication to Khartoum about the need for Bashir to stay away, “If there are any other issues, I will tell you ‘Please don’t come here because, I cannot guarantee your safety’.”
Khartoum expressed fury over Uganda’s stance describing it as “fluctuating” and wanted minister Okello removed to accept Musievini’s apology.