Eight years ago, Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir was an unwanted guest in Uganda and he would have probably ended up in prison if he had dared to visit. Then, President Yoweri Museveni considered him a ‘man with blood on his hands’.
Today, however, Bashir is a highly valued guest and he will walk the red carpet with pomp and colour that characterises a presidential visit to a foreign country.
In 2009, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant of arrest against Bashir for war crime and crimes against humanity in Darfur and Uganda, a State Party to the Rome Statute, was keen to honour its pledge to arrest Bashir if he dared set foot in Kampala. The bad blood between the two men has a long history shaped by rebellion in their countries. In Uganda, the Lord’s Resitance Army led by Joseph Kony was threatening to topple Museveni. There were claims that Bashir was backing the rebels because Museveni was said to support the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and its military arm, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
Over the years, Kampala and Khartoum have mended their broken relationship and Museveni does not see the need to hand over Bashir, whose other warrant was issued in 2010, to stand trial at the ICC.
The Pre-Trial Chamber judges issued the Court’s first warrant of arrest in 2005, against top members of the LRA. All suspects remained at large for a decade, until one LRA member, Dominic Ongwen, surrendered himself in January 2015. Other top members of the LRA, Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti remain at large.These developments have helped thaw the tension between Kampala and Khartoum.
As a sign of improving relationship, Museveni visited Khartoum in 2015 for bilateral talks. Consequently, as Museveni is sworn in to extend his rule to 35 years, Bashir will be among the dignitaries.
-It is 11 years since warrants of arrest were issued against Sudan’s President Omar Bashir
-Last year, his trip to South Africa caused an international uproar after President Jacob’s Zuma’s government failed to apprehend Bashir as required by the Rome Statute.
-In 2009, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni cancelled an invite to Bashir because he wanted to show commitment to the Rome Statute. His cooperation was mainly because he wanted the Democratic Republic of Congo to hand over LRA rebels led by Joseph Kony to the ICC. In canceling the invite to the Global Smart Partnerships summit Uganda posed: “How does Uganda urge the DRC and others to arrest Kony if they lay their hands on them, but then let Bashir slip through its hands?”
-So far three countries; Bostwana, Malawi, Zambia and Nigeria have said Bashir is not welcome and they would arrest him if he visits.
-Uganda will be the 13 country in Africa to host Bashir despite the international arrest warrants.