Ugandan government confused over Sudan president’s arrest ahead of visit

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Ugandan government is divided over what action it must take concerning Sudan’s president, Mr. Omar al-Bashir, ahead of his visit to Uganda for the Smart Partnership International Dialogue meeting. Cabinet ministers demand his arrest, but the president, Mr. Yoweri Museveni has dissented from their decision.

With the conflicting stance of the Ugandan government, Mr. Bashir has decided not to make the trip to Uganda, for the Smart Partnership International Dialogue meeting on Sunday 26th July – Tuesday 28th July 2009, so as to avoid any surprises, reports emanating from Khartoum, Sudan have claimed.

At an African Union (AU) summit in Libya on July 3, African heads of state called for the UN to reconsider the attempted prosecution of al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, and they adopted a resolution to allow Mr. Bashir walk free in Africa. As an African Union member, Uganda is expected to dishonor the arrest warrant brought against Mr. al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Ministers demand rule of law

However, the Ugandan foreign ministry issued a statement reiterating its commitment to the Rome Statute, which is the founding text of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to which Uganda is signatory. Ugandan foreign minister Sam Kuteesa was reported as telling reporters in Kampala that the AU’s decision to dishonor the arrest warrant on Mr. Bashir is a manifestation of lack of respect and support for the ICC Rome Statute by African leaders.

Uganda’s state Minister for International Affairs, Henry Oryem Okello revealed on Monday that Mr. Bashir faced arrest in Uganda. “We will handle it through diplomatic channels to avoid embarrassment and inconvenience to anybody,” he was quoted.

President begs to differ

But on Wednesday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was reported to have apologised to Mr. Bashir in a telephone conversation and distancing his government from Mr Okello’s claims. He was quoted as saying that Mr Okello was not mandated to speak on behalf of the government on the issue.

Mr. Bashir has managed to visit several African countries since the warrant for his arrest was issued in March. Some AU members such as Chad and Botswana have reportedly resisted the AU resolution to allow Mr. Bashir the freedom to travel freely around africa, unpeturbed. Senior Botswanan officials said the decision was forced upon the AU members by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who is the Pan-African body chairman.

Ugandan president has said he wants neither to condemn Bashir nor condone his actions.

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