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Sudan reacts fiercely to Uganda’s announcement on Bashir

June 6, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — The Sudanese government deplored am announcement by the office of Ugandan president Yoweri Musevini that it has asked Khartoum to send someone other than president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir to the African Union (AU) summit hosted by Kampala next month.

Uganda is a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which issued an arrest warrant for Bashir on charges of war crimes in Darfur and therefore has a legal obligation to apprehend him should he set foot in the country.

"President Yoweri Museveni has disclosed that his Sudanese counterpart General Omar Hassan Bashir has not been invited to attend the African Union Conference," a statement from the Ugandan presidency said.

Sudan would be represented at the conference by "other government officials" said the statement.

Museveni made the disclosure on Friday during a meeting with ICC president Sang-Hung Song, who is in Kampala for the court’s ongoing review conference.

Today the spokesperson of Sudanese foreign affairs ministry Muawiya Osman Khalid said that the announcement by Museveni "exposed the extent of ill intention to which the Ugandan regime has descended by announcing what is not in its authority at all".

"The power to invite representatives to African summits is not the prerogative of the host nation but that of the African Union in coordination with the host state," he said.

"Sudan as a member state in the African Union will determine who would represent it and would never accept Uganda to make any other suggestion in this regard".
The Sudanese official said that his government will demand a public apology from Uganda or else it will request a change of venue of summit to any other African capital "that abides by resolutions issued by previous AU summits and can host all African leaders without bending to pressure, external demands and without responding to blackmail from any party whoever it is".

Khalid was referring to the AU resolution made last year that no country in the continent will be cooperate with the ICC in executing the arrest warrant against Bashir. The Libyan leader Muammar Kaddafi has reportedly forced the resolution against his peers without debate while rights groups accused him of "bullying" other states into endorsing it.

States such as Botswana, Chad, Uganda and South Africa later made statements saying they cannot honor the resolution.

The spokesperson added that by this" unbalanced stance which is contrary to the African consensus, Uganda is striking a deadly blow to the African Union itself.....it is a unilateral move would lead to split and divisions in the African Union".

But a Ugandan official today again reiterated his country’s insistence on excluding Bashir.

"Uganda has not invited al-Bashir because the findings of (the) AU select committee headed by former South African leader, Thabo Mbeki, do not differ with that of the ICC," presidential spokesman Joseph Tamale Mirundi told CNN.

Last year, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) endorsed a report prepared by an eight-member team headed by Mbeki that was tasked with crafting a formula to resolve the conflict in Darfur that would take into consideration peace, justice and reconciliation.

Mbeki called for a hybrid court to try war crimes suspects and changes to Sudanese laws. It took no position on the ICC warrant except to say that the Hague-based tribunal cannot try all the suspects, effectively supporting its work.

Almost a year ago, Uganda backtracked on an invitation it sent to Bashir for the Global 2009 Smart Partnership Dialogue conference and asked Sudan to send another official instead to avoid a “diplomatic incident”.

Despite a phone call from Musevini to Bashir at the time apologizing for one of his cabinet ministers saying that the latter would be arrested, Khartoum expressed fury at Kampala for making the suggestion that its president could be arrested.

Sudan even demanded that the Ugandan official who blew the first whistle on arresting Bashir be sacked.

The announcement by Uganda marks a new embarrassment to Bashir who was sworn in last month for a new term after winning April’s presidential elections with a 68% majority. The comfortable win was facilitated in part by withdrawal of several heavyweight opposition figures from the race.

Last month, the South African president Jacob Zuma told lawmakers that Bashir would be apprehended if he set foot in the country for the opening of the 2010 FIFA World Cup starting this month. Sudan however said that Zuma was misquoted by the media.

HRW WELCOMES UGANDA’S POISTION

Human Rights Watch (HRW) today welcomed the decision by Uganda to exclude Bashir from the summit

"This is a welcome statement from the president of Uganda," Richard Dicker, international justice director at the New York-based group, told Agence France Presse (AFP).

"The trend is African state-parties standing up for accountability and ending impunity" Dicker said.

Dicker argued that Bashir’s insistence at an AU summit last year that he could travel anywhere he wanted on the continent has proved to be empty bluster.

"This certainly contradicts the triumphalist rhetoric that Bashir was conveying [at the summit] in Sirte (Libya)," Dicker said.

"I would say that Omar Al-Bashir’s travel agent is a very underemployed individual [...] Without question, the trend is his world getting smaller."

Dicker further argued that the announcement from Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni shows the ICC’s ongoing review conference is yielding results.

"It is part of the upshot of this conference occurring in Africa," he said.

William Pace, who heads the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), an umbrella organization of civil society justice groups, said he expects the court’s force to continue to strengthen.

"This is an example of how the Rome Statute continues to surround impunity for the worst crimes. Year by year, country by country, it shows the statute is working," he said.

Bashir has continued to conduct foreign visits but avoided states which are members of the ICC. In one instance he pulled out of an Islamic summit in Istanbul, after reports Turkey, a non-ICC member, had come under pressure from the European Union to drop him from the guest list.

(ST)