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AU Peace and Security Chief Warns Against ICC Arrest Warrant for Sudan's President

The commissioner for Peace and Security has been commenting on a number of issues confronting the continent ahead of this week’s African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Ramtane Lamamra said it would be tantamount to pouring fuel on fire if the International Criminal Court goes ahead to issue arrest warrants against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.

On democracy, Lamamra told VOA that Africans and their leaders are acquiring what he called a democracy culture. But he said when it comes to deepening the roots of democracy, particularly during elections, Africa is confronted with democracy technicality which he notes often leads to violence.

Lamamra noted that the current political violence in Madagascar sparked by confrontation between the mayor of the capital Antananarivo and President Marc Ravalomanana is an example of democracy technicality.

“I think the leaders as well as the people at large in Africa are certainly acquiring democracy culture which cause them to interact with each other in the respect of certain number of norms and principles without resorting violence to solve differences of views. But we have in many cases throughout Africa really democracy technicality which involves elections and at least theoretically separation of powers. Then when it comes to the daily operation of these institutions, sometimes a very small misunderstanding which can be overcome through abiding by the rule of law and the constitution, sometimes the situation generates into trouble,” he said.

Lamamra expressed regrets over the loss of life in the Madagascar confrontation. But he said the crisis appeared to be calming Wednesday perhaps in preparation for the dialogue between Antananarivo mayor and opposition leader Andry Rajoelina.

“This happening only a few days before the opening of the African Union summit, I’m sure that the leaders would wish to exchange views not only on the situation as such in Madagascar, but also on the overall democracy process in Africa, including the resurgence of the phenomena of military coups or unconstitutional change of all governments in general,” Lamamra said.

On the political impasse in Zimbabwe over the formation of a unity government, Tamamra said he was hopeful the success of last weekend’s Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit would lead to a quick resolution of the impasse.

“Africa is definitely determined to find African solutions to the African problems. But those African solutions would definitely be consistent with the values that we share with the rest of the world, including democracy, human rights and good governance,” he said.

Lamamra said from the peace and security point of view the overall landscape of Africa has been encouraging, including post-conflict situations in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Comoros Islands and others which he said are moving toward positive resolution such as relations between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

But he expressed concern over the situation in Somalia and recent military takeovers in Guinea and Mauritania.

On the International Criminal Court’s decision to bring charges against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir for genocide in Darfur, Lamamra said enhancing peace in Sudan should take precedence over justice.

“We in the African Union have stated very openly that encouraging now the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants against the President of Sudan or even against the key players in Sudan, including the leaders of the rebel movement would be tantamount to pouring fuel on fire. And that’s not what we need under the present circumstances,” he said.

Lamamra said the African Union has asked the United Nations Security Council to activate Article 16 of the Rome Statute under which the ICC was established.

“Article 16 provides for the U.N. Security Council to postpone the proceedings of the International Criminal Court for 12 months, and that means clearly that justice would not be jeopardized. It would just give the opportunity for the peace process to proceed and for the democratization process in Sudan to proceed,” Lamamra said.