Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir returned home from Uganda late Thursday after attending President Yoweri Museveni’s inauguration. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court, and Uganda’s failure to arrest him has sparked outrage.
Uganda greeted Bashir with flowers, according to local media, after his plane arrived in Kampala Thursday for the inauguration of longtime President Yoweri Museveni.
The Sudanese community in Uganda was shocked.
Wanted for war crimes
Bashir has been wanted since 2009 by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.
A Darfuri man who fled to Kampala from Darfur that same year said “it was sad actually. You see him, he's moving free!"
"But again," he added, "at the end of the day even if the scenario with Bashir in The Hague, what about the people in the IDP camps? You talk to them and you know it's good to see him behind bars, but what about the people who lost their lives? What about the people who lost their houses?”
The conflict in Darfur, which began in 2003, is still considered ongoing with humanitarian organizations often barred from the region.
Bashir has continued to travel freely around parts of Africa, riding a swell of defiance vis-à-vis the ICC among some leaders.
Diplomats walk out
Western diplomats walked out of Museveni’s inauguration Thursday as the Ugandan leader railed against the court, calling it “useless” in his speech.
The U.S. State Department said the walkout, which included the American delegation, was “an appropriate reaction.”
Uganda is a signatory of the Rome Statute, meaning it is obligated to arrest those wanted by the ICC.
Mossaad Mohamed Ali, executive director with the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies in Kampala, said during the different African Union summits, they talked a lot about withdrawal from the ICC.
"Uganda is one of the big supporters of the ICC, even, you know, he [Museveni] asked for the cooperation of the ICC in order to investigate the crimes that had been committed here in Uganda by the LRA, among others," he said. "However, now we witness this change in different positions of the different leaders. And now it's Museveni by his statement yesterday morning.”
South Africa came under fire last June for allowing Bashir to leave the country during an AU summit there despite a South African court order to arrest him.