It appears Uganda is going to be the first African country to openly express its willingness to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir if and when he enters Uganda.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for President Bashir for war crimes in Darfur.
Uganda’s Minister for International Affairs Henry Oryem Okello reportedly told reporters Monday that Ugandan police will arrest the Sudanese president if he arrives in Uganda.
President Bashir is expected in Uganda 27 July to attend the 2009 Smart Partnership Dialogue.
Okello told VOA Uganda is under international legal obligation to carry out the ICC arrest warrants.
“There is a warrant of arrest for Bashir that has been deposited in the office of the solicitor general in Uganda. Now the question of whether Bashir will be arrested when he arrives in Kampala or at Entebbe I cannot answer it until Bashir is in Uganda,” he said.
Okello appealed for patience as he described Uganda’s plan whether or not to arrest President Bashir as ‘secretive’.
At their summit earlier this month in Libya, African leaders refused to arrest President Bashir because they said the U.N. Security Council ignored their pleads to delay the ICC arrest warrants.
Okello said Uganda would not be contradicting the African Union position if it goes ahead to arrest the Sudanese president.
“We would not be going against the African Union position because we have a legal international obligation. We are signatory to the ICC Rome Statute…and this doesn’t contradict any position with the AU,” Okello said.
Okello said even though the Sudanese president was invited to Uganda, Mr. Bashir is also equally aware that there is a warrant out for his arrest.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo arrived in Uganda over the weekend to also reportedly consult with President Yoweri Museveni on pending arrest warrants for Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony.
Kony has refused to sign a final peace deal until the ICC arrest warrants against him were dropped.
Okello said if the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Kony is believed to be hiding, captures him it has an obligation to hand him over to the ICC.
“If Joseph Kony was interested in peace, he should have signed the final peace agreement which was offered to him following the Juba peace talks. He has not; he has chosen to continue fighting, abducting and kidnapping girls for sex slaves. And therefore if he is caught now in the DRC, he will go to The Hague,” Okello said.
He reiterated that Uganda will decide whether or not to arrest President Bashir when the Sudanese leader arrives in Kampala.
Acclaimed African historian and political analyst Ali Mazrui has joined the African Union to criticize the ICC for issuing arrest warrants against President Bashir.
He said the ICC tends to target the leaders of weaker, smaller countries.
“One thing that is wrong about the system is that systemically it targets smaller countries. And secondly, to implement it very often you risk the lives of others whom might be either willingly or be forced to defend their president,” Mazrui said.
Mazrui called on the ICC to review its current policy of targeting sitting presidents who have allegedly committed war crimes.
He said the ICC should spend its time recording the alleged sins of a sitting president and go after him only after that president has left office.