The head of the African Union Commission is in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to discuss a request by the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor for an arrest warrant for Sudan's president. As Derek Kilner reports from VOA's East Africa bureau in Nairobi, the African Union has asked the U.N. Security Council to suspend that request.
An African Union delegation led by AU Commission chairman Jean Ping is meeting with top Sudanese officials about the attempt to try Sudan's president at the International Criminal Court and the peace process in the country's western Darfur region.
Sudanese government spokesman Rabbie Atti told VOA the delegation is expected to meet with President Omar al-Bashir, Vice President Ali Osman Taha and Nafie al-Nafie, the president's top Darfur advisor, during the two-day trip.
The visit follows last week's decision by the AU Peace and Security Council to ask the U.N. Security Council to suspend the request for an arrest warrant.
Atti says the African Union is concerned about the possible negative effects that an arrest warrant could have for peace efforts in Darfur, including the joint AU-U.N. peacekeeping force known as UNAMID.
"This will definitely create a lot of troubles for the peace process, and for the security in Darfur," said Atti. "And I think that the African Union commissioners and the peace and security council according to their statements that this will hinder and create a lot of troubles for the peace process and also will create troubles even for UNAMID in Darfur."
The ICC chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, is seeking an arrest warrant for President Bashir on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
Sudan has been trying to head off such an outcome by seeking diplomatic support from sympathetic foreign powers, including China and Russia, and from regional blocks like the Arab League and the African Union. Bona Malwal, an advisor to Sudan's president, says the AU opposition to an ICC warrant should come as little surprise.
"All that Sudan has done is to put its case to the AU and I think that the critics who think that when it suits their interests, the AU should ignore its interests in order to let the interests of the critics prevail is unrealistic," said Malwal. "The AU works as a body, as a bloc. One of them is being targeted and they think that is not a legitimate targeting, so they stand up and say it. "
While many African leaders have rallied around Sudan's president, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has voiced support for the court's actions, saying the African Union should be willing to investigate its members and should not ignore the rights of victims.
Uganda has its own relationship with the ICC. The court issued arrest warrants for the top leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group operating in northern Uganda and southern Sudan.
Sudan has rejected cooperation with the ICC, saying Sudan's justice system is able to handle any crimes committed in Darfur. But the Sudanese government as declined to prosecute the two Sudanese citizens wanted by the ICC, humanitarian affairs minister Ahmed Haroun, and militia leader Ali Kushayb.