Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir gestures during the photocall before the opening of the 25th African Union (AU) Summit at Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 14, 2015. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir attends the 25th AU Summit here despite International Criminal Court's arrest warrants. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan) (lrz)
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir gestures during the photocall before the opening of the 25th African Union (AU) Summit at Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 14, 2015. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir attends the 25th AU Summit here despite International Criminal Court's arrest warrants. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan) (lrz)

By Christine Lagat

The drama surrounding the visit by Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir to South Africa despite an arrest warrant against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC) points at growing tension between the global court and African leaders.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir gestures during the photocall before the opening of the 25th African Union (AU) Summit at Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 14, 2015. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir attends the 25th AU Summit here despite International Criminal Court's arrest warrants. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan) (lrz)
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir gestures during the photocall before the opening of the 25th African Union (AU) Summit at Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 14, 2015. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir attends the 25th AU Summit here despite International Criminal Court’s arrest warrants. (Xinhua/Zhai Jianlan) (lrz)

Al-Bashir on Sunday visited South Africa to attend the African Union (AU) Summit even as the ICC piled pressure on Pretoria to arrest and hand him over to face trial over his alleged involvement in killing and displacement of civilians in the Western Sudan region of Darfur.
The Sudanese leader’s presence at the AU Summit in Johannesburg created a buzz as the host country grappled with a tricky diplomatic dilemma.
Earlier on Sunday, a South African court issued a directive to the SA Ministry of Home Affairs to prevent al-Bashir from leaving the country until determination of his case on Monday.
Both the ICC and South African human rights groups piled pressure on the government to arrest al-Bashir during the AU summit.
Campaigners argued that South Africa has an obligation to hand over prime suspects since it is a signatory to the Rome Statue that created the ICC in 2002.
Al-Bashir put a brave face as he graced the opening ceremony of the AU Summit while the host government remained tight lipped on whether to honor the ICC’s request.
A section of South African political leadership was quoted by local media as having expressed their displeasure on the conduct of the Hague-based court.
They argued that the ICC had no authority to order sovereign states to arrest democratically elected African leaders.
Even as SA judges insisted on Monday that a court order barring Sudanese leader from leaving South Africa remained in force, government lawyers vehemently opposed this ruling.
Unconfirmed reports indicated that al-Bashir had left South Africa by mid-morning on Monday despite the court order barring him to do so.
The Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman told leading news agencies that al-Bashir would be arriving in Khartoum in a matter of hours.
African leaders attending the biannual summit appeared calm and focussed despite the frenzy created by international media over al- Bashir’s whereabouts.
The relationship between African leaders and ICC has remained tense since 2013 as allegations surfaced that the court was biased against individuals from the continent.
During a special AU summit held in Addis Ababa in June 2013, the newly elected Ethiopian Prime Minister, Haile Mariam Desalegn accused the ICC of “race hunt” for its obsession to prosecute African leaders.
African leaders during their biannual summits have agreed to shield themselves from prosecution at the ICC.
The ICC in 2009 indicted al-Bashir for crimes against humanity and later issued a warrant of arrest against him.
Since 2010, al-Bashir has restricted his travels abroad to avoid arrest and has only made brief visits to friendly nations in Asia, Middle East and Africa.
Analysts who spoke to Xinhua condemned the ICC’s biased and unilateral approach to address crimes against humanity in Africa.
The Director of the London-based Africa Research Center David Hoile said ICC has lost credibility and trust in Africa because of its imperialist and racist tendencies.
“Africa leaders have lost faith in the ICC since it is no longer living up to its founding ideals. It has acted like a tool for major powers in their quest to dominate the world,” Hoile told Xinhua
He stressed that ICC has no mandate to prosecute al-Bashir since Khartoum is not signatory to the Rome Statute.
The ICC will have a herculean task as it tries to prosecute African leaders over their alleged involvement in serious crimes.
Hoile noted the court is often perceived as a neocolonial entity in many parts of Africa hence its inability to win hearts and minds of leaders and their subjects.
“At its establishment in 2002, ICC was tasked with tackling injustices without fear or favor. The court has however ignored grave crimes committed in the rich north and has only pursued African cases,” said Hoile.
He regretted that the European Union has profound influence on decisions taken by the ICC since it provides two thirds of funding to the court.
Failure by the ICC to arrest al-Bashir during his South African trip is seen as a victory on African sovereignty.
Hoile emphasized that an alternative and home-grown court was required to handle African cases.
“Leaders must fast-track the establishment of an African court with prosecutorial powers to independently handle cases emanating from this region,” Hoile said. Enditem

-Xinhua

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