Zimbabwe played host to Sudan’s leader Omar al-Beshir, who faces international arrest for war crimes and ousted Madagascan leader Marc Ravalomanana, who has received a four year prison term in absentia.
Both men arrived in Victoria Falls on Saturday for a two-day African trade summit. Zimbabwe authorities had promised not to arrest Omar el-Beshir as it is not party to the treaty that set up the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Said justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, “We are aware that the President of Sudan is under an ICC warrant of arrest which he disputes. We are not a state party under the Rome Statute. We have no obligation under the Statute of Rome to execute that obligation,”
The Sudanese president’s weekend trip was the first to the Sourthen African country. He has so far visited countries that are not members of the ICC. The ICC issued an arrest warrant in March for Beshir to face five counts of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes over the conflict in Darfur.
Addressing the summit, President Robert Mugabe, currently at the head of COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), insisted that conflicts had adversely affected African economies in regard to productivity and prosperity and called for those present, including Omar Bashir who is accused to have been instrumental in the deaths of some 300 000 Sudanese as well as the displacement of over 2.5 million people, to “make Africa a continent of opportunity for all its people by eliminating conflict”.
Only last week, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs OCHA dovetailed Morgan Tsvangirai’s bleak summary of the situation in Zimbabwe, noting that the unity government had neither compensated victims of past political violence nor punished the perpetrators, in the process creating a culture of impunity. “Recent months have seen a number of politically-motivated abductions and related abuse of court process by state officers, invoking powers for further detention without lawful grounds,” OCHA said.
Several Zimbabweans died before and after last year’s presidential elections in March in which Tsvangirai outpolled Mugabe but could not meet the set target to be declared president.
COMESA [[Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe]] is a 19-member state community with over 400 million persons under its unbrella. Under a new agreement, the community which counts a combined gross domestic product of over 260 billion euros will see raw materials and capital goods travelling across their borders without tariffs. Intermediate products will be taxed at 10 per cent and finished goods at 25 per cent.
Meanwhile, Marc Ravalomanana has told the Zimbabwean press that he still believes that one day he would regain his presidency after his ouster in March.
“It was a coup. I’m sure COMESA will make a commitment so that I get my country back,” he told reporters at Victoria Falls airport. “People of Madagascar are suffering. The illegal government is bad and the situation is deteriorating every day. We have to follow rules of democracy.”
However, Ravalomanana was last week handed a four-year jail term to which he was sentenced in absentia over his purchase of a 60-million-dollar presidential jet.