DESPITE Uganda being a signatory to the Rome Statute that instituted the International Criminal Court, President Yoweri Museveni has ruled out ever arresting the indicted Sudan president, Omar Bashir, if he ever visited Uganda in future.
Bashir has an indictment by The Hague based court hanging over his head on account of his alleged role in genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Sudan’s restive region of Darfur.
In the ICC indictment, Bashir is accused of directing a campaign of mass killing, rape and pillage against hapless civilians in Darfur in a gory conflict that claimed an estimated 400,000 lives according to independent sources. The Sudan government puts the figure of causalities at 100,000.
In June, while in South Africa, there were attempts to have him arrested and handed over to ICC. “Those are not the ways of Africans. I cannot arrest a person I have invited,” Museveni told the media on Monday in a joint briefing with Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Museveni was responding to questions as to whether he will consider apprehending a leader that has grown wary of travelling to countries that are signatories to the Rome Statute not knowing which reception awaits him.
In Africa, Botswana’s president, Ian Khama, has explicitly made it clear that he would sanction Bashir’s arrest and extradition to the ICC if he ever sets foot in Botswana.
However, with all cases under investigation by ICC involving Africans, many African leaders are having a second thought about their cooperation with the court, with many accusing it of bias.
During his independence speech last year, Museveni launched a scathing attack on ICC for its prosecution of Uhuru over his alleged role in the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya, describing it as “an instrument of post-colonial hegemony.”
The case against Uhuru has since collapsed over want of evidence pinning him.
Furthermore, on all the occasions President Bashir has been in Uganda, he was an official state guest invited by the government of Uganda, and not a traveler passing by or on tourism.
It is, therefore inconceivable for the EU, ICC, and some of their surrogate civil organisations to expect that the Uganda government would defy common sense and established international diplomatic protocols, and arrest President Bashir for purposes of transferring him over to The Hague.
The Uganda government is bound by the collective, in fact, unanimous resolution of the African Union (AU) not to cooperate with the ICC on matters relating to arresting a sitting president or Head of State because the AU treats the ICC as an institution that has digressed from its original intended purpose and is now mainly selectively used to witch-hunt African leaders deemed not compliant to imperial interests.
It is the well considered view of the Uganda government that in addition to the AU position, the on-going constructive diplomatic engagements with President Bashir where Uganda is facilitating peaceful negotiation between the Sudan government and some of those opposed to it are yielding positive results as evidenced by settlements in the Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia.