Ghanian President John Atta Mills says African leaders are refusing to cooperate with an International Criminal Court arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir because it is best for Africa.
President Mills says last week's decision by the African Union to ignore the International Criminal Court's arrest warrant for the Sudanese leader was hotly debated at the alliance meeting in Libya.
"At the end, we arrived at a decision by consensus," he said. "And let me say that when you belong to a group where you believe in democracy, the decision taken by the group is binding on you, not that I dissented."
President Mills says he was convinced by the argument that the court's case against President al-Bashir differs from cases against former Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba and Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony.
The International Criminal Court issued its arrest warrant in connection with charges that the Sudanese leader is responsible for human rights abuses in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.
President Mills says arresting President al-Bashir would hamper efforts to bring peace to that region, where more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees already live in camps across the border in Chad.
"We need a lasting solution for Darfur," he said. "And the President of Sudan, al-Bashir, is a major part of the solution. So that is why we called for postponement. That is why we expressed the view that with him out, it is going to be very difficult to get any solution in that country. We did that because we thought that was the best for Africa."
The human rights group Amnesty International says the African Union decision undermines its credibility and shows disdain for those in Darfur who have suffered. By supporting a person facing an international arrest warrant for war crimes, the group says the African Union is making a mockery of itself as an international body.
Since the warrant was issued, President al-Bashir has traveled only to countries that have not signed on to the international court and therefore do not fall under its jurisdiction. Khartoum says it believes the African Union decision to ignore the warrant means Mr. al-Bashir is free to travel within Africa without fear of arrest.