ICC-wanted Bashir to visit Uganda for talks on South Sudan crisis, Kampala says won’t arrest him

The African Union has a different position, of not cooperating on ICC, and Uganda will respect that - Foreign ministry.

SUDANESE President Omar al-Bashir will on Monday join a group of regional leaders in Uganda for talks on South Sudan conflict, a top foreign affairs official said here on Saturday.

James Mugume, the permanent secretary, ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters at State House, Entebbe, 40 kilometers south of the capital, Kampala that President Bashir will join Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyetta and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to discuss the political crisis in neighbouring South Sudan.

“He (Bashir) has been invited for heads of state meeting on regional issues at State House, Entebbe. We expect him to join them on Monday to discuss the crisis in South Sudan and how to end it,” said Mugume.

Kenyetta arrived in Uganda on Saturday while Desalegn and Bashir are expected to arrive in the country on Monday.

Mugume said Bashir’s visit to the East African country will not cause a “diplomatic incident” because of International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants for his alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

The African Union (AU) has a different position (not cooperating) on ICC. We respect and abide by it. We have no obligation to arrest him,” said Mugume.

Bashir is being accused by ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region. The AU in October 2013 opposed the ICC criminal proceedings against the sitting president, saying it infringes on the nation’s sovereignty.

Museveni late last year called on African nations to drop out of the treaty establishing the ICC, saying the court unfairly targets Africans.

It was a u-turn on his part, as previously his government urged the ICC to indict leaders of the brutal Ugandan rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The ICC eventually indicted LRA leader Joseph Kony, who is on the run somewhere in the jungles of the Central African Republic (CAR) and the DR Congo.

There is currently a multinational African Union hunting down Kony and other LRA commanders, leading critics to argue that the AU is happy with the ICC indicts everyone else, except presidents.

Bashir’s June visit to South Africa for an AU summit stirred up an international controversy after the Pretoria authorities refused to arrest him after a Johannesburg court barred him from leaving the country.

After pushing back aggressively and even threatening to quit the ICC, last week the South African government seemed to back down, with President Jacob Zuma saying his country could not arrest Bashir because he was a guest of the AU, not South Africa’s, and the areas where the continental summit took place were essentially ceded to the group during the meeting.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has persistently reminded the countries that are signatories to the Rome Statute of a legal obligation to arrest President Bashir. She is unlikely to get much help from them any time soon.

-Reporting by Xinhua.

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