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Sudan's President Avoids South African Arrest

  • VOA News

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir looks on ahead of the 25th African Union summit in Johannesburg, June 14, 2015.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir looks on ahead of the 25th African Union summit in Johannesburg, June 14, 2015.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has arrived back in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, after defying a South African court order to remain in South Africa and await a decision on whether he should be arrested on international war crimes charges.

Supporters of Bashir were waiting to greet him at the Khartoum airport late Monday, waving signs and photographs of the man they call the "Lion of Africa." As he stepped out of his plane, Bashir greeted the throng with a wave from his walking stick, then stepped into an open-topped vehicle to drive through the crowd.

Bashir left South Africa Monday just hours before the court ruled that he should be detained and handed over to the U.N.-backed International Criminal Court for prosecution.

The Pretoria court and the International Criminal Court both expressed disappointment at Bashir's failure to heed the court's rulings. South African judge Dunstan Mlambo issued a public statement criticizing the South African government for allowing Bashir to leave before the arrest warrant was issued.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has responded by saying the authority of the ICC must be respected.

The charges of war crimes and genocide against Bashir stem from the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, in which the U.N. estimates 300,000 people were killed and some 2 million displaced.

AU summit

Bashir was in South Africa for a two day-meeting of African Union heads of state. The leaders agreed to send military experts to Burundi following weeks of violent protests there sparked by the president's decision to run for a third term.

Critics say President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term would violate a two-term limit in the constitution, but his supporters say he is eligible to run again because he was appointed by lawmakers to his first term in office and not elected by a popular vote.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield told VOA on the sidelines of the AU summit that the upheaval in Burundi is a direct result of the president's effort to stay in power.

"We think that this is a clear political decision and we keep hearing from the region and from others that it has to do with the constitution, but there is nothing in the Burundi constitution that says that the president must run for president for a third term. It is a decision that he is making and it is having a detrimental effect on the country," she said.

The summit, which ended Monday, touched on a wide range of issues, including African migrants who are fleeing the continent and proposals for a continental free trade area.

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