President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has not been invited to next month’s African Union conference in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda said in a statement. Museveni, a no-nonsense African leader, probably made the decision to improve on his credibility and impress on the ICC after calls by a member of Uganda’s opposition to have him investigated as well for human rights abuses. But this move by Museveni will go down well with western countries who are bent on bringing Bashir to justice. Museveni has played his cards well and this will boost support for him as he seeks another term in office.
The ICC has an indictment against Bashir over crimes in Sudan’s western Darfur region and African states that are signatories to the agreement establishing the court are obliged to arrest him. Museveni’s office issued a statement late on Saturday saying Sudan would be represented at the conference by “other government officials” and not Bashir.
The ICC issued an arrest warrant against Bashir in March 2009, on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, charges that he rejects. It was the first indictment for a sitting head of state. In 2008, the court accused him of masterminding a campaign of genocide in the troubled region, prompting a round of protests from the government in Khartoum. This decision by Museveni to stop Bashir from attending the AU conference will also help portray the AU as a serious body ready to take tough decisions on human rights abusers. The AU has asked for Bashir’s arrest warrant to be deferred, saying it complicates peace efforts in Darfur.
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