Sudanese president will not attend inauguration

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Pretoria - Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir will not be among the 29 Heads of State to attend Saturday's inauguration of the country's fourth democratically elected president.

"There will be a representative from the unity government but President Bashir will not be coming," Director General of the Department of Foreign Affairs Ayanda Ntsaluba told reporters on Thursday.

The director general was briefing reporters on the state of preparations ahead of President-elect Jacob Zuma's inauguration.

If President Bashir was to come to the country, the issue of the warrant of arrest of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and South Africa's own position being a signatory to this convention would be in question.

Earlier this year, the ICC issued a warrant of arrest for the Sudanese President for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. President Bashir has rejected the arrest warrant issued by the ICC against him.

The African Union (AU) had hoped the ICC would delay the charges on President Al Bashir for a year, fearing his indictment would destabilise the situation in Darfur. It held a special session to find ways to halt the issuing of the warrant.

The AU has since called on all its members to pull out of the international court withdraw from the Rome Statute that established the world's first permanent war crimes court in protest against the warrant.

Many African leaders have expressed fear that his indictment would destabilise the fragile Darfur region, which government and rebel forces had advanced to resolve the crisis.

Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said at the time that the ICC's decision to issue an arrest warrant for President Bashir was regrettable, and that South Africa has accepted the AU's initial response to the ICC's decision.

"South Africa has never countenanced any acts of impunity. However, South Africa supported the decision of the AU to defer the issuing of the warrant of arrest against President Bashir by a year to give the peace processes in the Sudan a chance," Ms Dlamini Zuma said at the time.