Ethiopia and Omar al-Bashir, henceforth, inseparable

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International war crimes suspect and Sudanese President, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has showed his most determined contempt against the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) warrant for his arrest as he seeks to reinforce his country’s relations on his recent visit to Ethiopia, the first majority Christian country to welcome him since he became an internationally acclaimed wanted man.

He has so far visited Egypt, Eritrea, Libya and Qatar, where the Arab League summit was recently held.

In an unprecedented defiance since an international arrest warrant was issued against him, President al-Bashir moved a high powered delegation to meet international representatives in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, while reinforcing his country’s bilateral relations with Ethiopa, the first majority Christian country to welcome him since the ICC arrest warrant.

During the Sudanese President’s visit, about 20 of the 50 plus African ambassadors in Addis Ababa showed up for the welcome ceremony followed by a state dinner hosted by Ethiopian Prime minister Meles Zenawi. Although representatives from the United States and the European Union, among others, were absent, China, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela were among non-African envoys to be present at the welcome ceremony.

A wrong decision

Confirming his government’s position on the subject of the ICC arrest warrant issued against Omar al-Bashir, the Ethiopian Prime Minister said “It is a wrong decision that would revitalize the Darfur situation which is currently calming down” Meles told journalists in a joint press conference with his Sudanese counterpart.

The Ethiopian PM insisted that the African Union also believes that ”the ICC indictment is very unwelcome and needs to be deferred, and we support the African Union position on the matter as Ethiopia”. He also insisted that the decision “hasn’t affected our relationship with Sudan. Nevertheless, we recognize that this issue is hanging in the cloud and needs to be removed one way or another.”

A combined condemnation of the warrant during the last AU summit gives impetus to the Sudanese President to pursue both his continental and international travels, especially as most Arab countries as well as other major economic powers including China have shown support. According to some analysts, the Sudanese President’s chain trips to African and Arab league countries are as a result of his quest for support.

Meles Zenawi cautions

However, in an open advice to the Sudanese President at the press conference, Meles Zenawi said he should tread more cautiously during his pending official tours, as the possibility of an arrest in any country could not be ruled out. In fact, over thirty African countries are signatories to the ICC and bound by its demands notwithstanding their strong opposition to the arrest warrant.

Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Seyoum Mesfin said that Ethiopia remains convinced that the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) would not serve justice nor promote peace and stability in Sudan and the sub region. Sudan and Ethiopia share the longest land border (1606 km) among the former’s nine neighbours. This makes Ethiopia particularly vulnerable to upheavals in neighbouring Sudan.

Critics of the ICC arrest warrant argue that the already volatile East African country could be faced with bloody factional wars should Omar al-Bashir, the first sitting head of state to be indicted, be arrested.

Firm Ethiopian position

Speaking at the opening of the Joint Ethio-Sudan Ministerial Meeting, Tuesday, Mr. Seyoum said that Ethiopia has taken a clear and firm position on the matter not only as a member of the AU and the IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development — East Africa) but also on its own as a responsible member of the region.

Following the ministerial meeting the two countries signed different memorandum of understanding that would foster greater co-operation between the two countries, especially in the area of trade and security.

Before his departure, President al-Beshir talked about his appreciation for United States President Barack Obama’s administration. The two countries have been striving to smooth their relation Unlike Bush’s administration, he told journalists.

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