Museveni apologises to Bashir over arrest threat

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni. PHOTO/FILE

KAMPALA,Thursday

Uganda said on Thursday Sudan’s indicted president had agreed to send a deputy to an economic meeting in Kampala after comments that the east Africa nation may act on international arrest warrants as Sudanese state media and Ugandan newspapers said Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had called Sudan’s Omar Hassan al-Bashir to apologise for comments from a junior minister that Kampala was mulling whether or not to arrest him.

Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over crimes in Sudan’s western Darfur region, was due to attend a meeting in Kampala on regional integration from July 26-28.

“The invitation still stands ... (but) we will handle it through diplomatic channels to avoid embarrassment and inconvenience to anybody,” Mr James Mugume, a senior Ugandan foreign affairs official, told Reuters by telephone.

“It’s a codeword for an agreement that President Bashir delegates another senior cabinet-ranked person. That was agreed,” he said.

Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig said he had no information about the president’s travel plans to Uganda.

Mr Mugume said Uganda was committed to the ICC, but wanted to avoid an incident following an African Union resolution not to cooperate with the warrants.

“We neither condemn nor condone the indictment until our team, chaired by former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, has done its investigations and its report,” Mr Mugume said.

Mbeki is chairing an AU panel charged with helping bring peace to Darfur, where conflict since 2003 has killed an estimated 300,000 people, according to the United Nations. Khartoum says only 10,000 people have died.

The ICC in March indicted Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in a case that has sparked controversy across Africa, which has 30 countries signed up to the global court’s statute.

Bashir, who dismisses the ICC charges, has been in Egypt this week at a summit of the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement which was expected to voice “deep concern” about the ICC’s move to indict him.

Swinging and undecided

Governmental sources described Uganda stances as swinging and undecided while warned of any intention to get out from the AU decision which called on all African countries not to cooperate with the ICC with regard to its alleged fabrications against President al-Bashir.

However, the Sudanese Foreign ministry is reserved in responding officially against the Ugandan stances but the ministry spokesman had condemned in a previous statements, a similar stance taken by State of Botswana, adds GODFFREY OLALI.

The Ugandan State Minister for International Relations Okello Oryem, had said at a press conference this week: “Till al-Bashir comes here I could not tell whether he could be arrested or not”, adding, “Let us wait for al-Bashir to arrive here and we will see which action will be action,” explaining that the said issue is up to the Inspector General of Police to take action.

International Crimenal Court’s chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has been quoted as saying that Uganda has obligation to cooperate with the court, indicating that the case of South Africa where the President Al-Bashir did not attend the swearing-in of President Jacob Zuma last May.

“It’s a legal obligation and a court decision and Uganda and South Africa and 30 other states have a legal obligation on the said issue,” said Mr Moreno-Ocampo.

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