Botswana’s former President, Festus Mogae, and current president, Ian Khama, have taken opposite sides on the controversial issue of the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC.
Speaking at a two day conference at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College sponsored by the Boston University African Presidential Archives and Research Center, Mogae said it was premature to call for the arrest of President Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court based on alleged atrocities in his country’s Darfur region.
This runs counter to President Ian Khama’s position. In his speech during Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete’s visit here, President Khama had said that “we should equally condemn Africa’s leaders who continually show a disregard for human rights and the rule of law as is presently the case with Sudan. And by not condoning impunity, we should also have the courage to render such leaders to international justice, including the International Criminal Court so that they can answer to the charges against them”.
Mogae has taken sides with the African Union while Khama has taken sides with western countries. Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday urged UN Security Council “to challenge those in the African Union who claim that peace efforts in Sudan are being undermined by the ICC warrant to arrest President Omar al-Bashir,” the rights body said in a communiqu├®.
The call was made by Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch ahead of UN Security Council’s 15-member-country’s visit to four African nations, including Ethiopia, where the envoys will hold meetings with AU officials.
Human Rights Watch also pressed the council to make clear that – even though it has the authority – it will not consider any deferral of the ICC arrest warrant for al-Bashir.
According to HRW, peace has eluded Darfur “for years and the region is no closer now to a durable peace for the victims of the violence”.
Given the al-Bashir government’s responsibility for the deaths of more than 300,000 Africans, such a decision would set an appalling precedent in international justice.