Rwanda ruling party wants Kagame to run again
KHARTOUM — Sudanese President Omar al-bashir, who was temporarily banned by a court from leaving South Africa Sunday, has defied war crimes charges from the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2009.
Mr Bashir flew out of South Africa on Monday, defying a court order for him to stay as judges weighed up whether he should be arrested for alleged war crimes and genocide.
The ICC said it was “disappointed” at South Africa’s failure to heed its calls to detain Bashir on longstanding arrest warrants over the Darfur conflict.
As his plane took off on the final day of an African Union leaders’ summit in Johannesburg, the local high court was still hearing arguments over an urgent application to force the authorities to detain him.
“Our position has always been that South Africa’s obligation is clear and unequivocal. It had an obligation to arrest him,” the ICC’S chief deputy prosecutor James Stewart told AFP.
After Bashir had departed, South African judge Dunstan Mlambo also issued a harsh rebuke of the government for ignoring Sunday’s court order, requiring the authorities to keep him grounded.
“The conduct of the respondents — to the extent that they have failed to take steps to arrest and detain (Bashir) — is inconsistent with the constitution of the Republic of South Africa,” Mlambo said.
Established in 2002 as the world’s only permanent independent body to try war crimes, the Hague-based ICC has opened nine cases in eight countries, all in Africa.
Kenya’s then Icc-indicted presidential ticket running-mates, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, cast their election-winning 2013 campaign as a patriotic struggle against imperialism.
AU commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-zuma has also spoken out against Bashir’s arrest warrant, urging the balancing of reconciliation and justice. Her home country of South Africa pioneered such an approach with its post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission that offered amnesty for honesty.
South Africa is a signatory of The Hague-based ICC, which has often been criticised for only targeting African leaders.
Dressed in his traditional white robes, a smiling Bashir waved his cane in the air as he stepped off the plane after landing back in Khartoum and then drove around in an open-topped car surrounded by a crowd of supporters.
Despite being indicted by the ICC in 2009 and again in 2010 on genocide charges, Mr Bashir won elections in April with more than 94 percent of the vote, facing an opposition boycott and a handful of little-known challengers.
The 71-year-old has proved to be a political survivor, since seizing power in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup, facing down not only the ICC indictments but also a myriad of domestic challenges.
Dressed in traditional gleaming white robes and sporting his trade- KIGALI — Senior members of Rwanda’s ruling party have endorsed a change in constitution so President Paul Kagame can seek a third term in office, the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) said on Monday.
A bid by neighbouring Burundi’s president to be re-elected to a third term next month triggered weeks of violent protests by opponents who said the move violated the constitution.
But analysts do not anticipate a similar eruption in Rwanda if Mr Kagame runs again, citing his stronger grip on power.
About 3.6 million people have signed a petition urging parliament to change the constitution but the effort has been tainted by media assertions that some of Rwanda’s 11.8 million people were forced to do so by officials.
Rwanda’s constitution limits presidents to two seven-year terms. Mr Kagame, who was re-elected with a landslide in 2010, said in April that the constitution had been drawn up by the people and they would determine any changes to the charter.
Mr Kagame has not said if he would support the move.
In early April, he said he disagreed with initiatives to amend the constitution but was “open” to being convinced otherwise.
Critics accuse Mr Kagame (57) of trampling on media and political freedoms. But he has also won international praise for the progress made since the 1994 genocide toward transforming Rwanda into a middle-income country by 2020.
Burundi was racked by unrest after President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement on April 25 that he would seek a third term. mark thick moustache, Mr Bashir appeared triumphant at his inauguration on June 2, promising to turn a “new page” for Sudan.
At a ceremony attended by the presidents of Egypt, Kenya and Zimbabwe, Mr Bashir said he would mend Sudan’s foreign relations and remedy its ailing economy.
And in the lead-up to the elections, he visited Saudi Arabia and Egypt, flouting travel restrictions imposed by his ICC indictments.
At home, parliament granted him greater powers last year and recent diplomatic successes have However, protests have largely died down in the approach to the July 15 presidential election.
The RPF issued a communique backing a constitutional change after about 600 highranking members held a two-day retreat on left him riding high.
Mr Bashir has also boosted his image abroad with Sudan helping to broker a deal in March between Egypt and Ethiopia to resolve a dispute over the sharing of waters from the Nile.
He also joined a Saudi-led coalition against Shiite rebels in Yemen, improving ties with the oilrich Gulf nations.
A career soldier, Mr Bashir is well known for his populist touch, insisting on being close to crowds and addressing them in colloquial Sudanese Arabic. the outskirt of the capital Kigali this weekend.
“Based on the wishes of Rwandans and party members that have been recently expressed, we support that the (constitution)... should be amended,” the communiqué said.
War crimes indictments Under Mr Turabi’s influence he led Sudan towards a more radical brand of Islam, hosting Al-qaeda and sending jihadist volunteers to fight in the country’s civil war with the south Sudanese.
Washington slapped Sudan with a trade embargo in 1997 over charges that included human rights abuses.
In 1999, Mr Bashir moved to end Sudan’s isolation, ousting Mr Turabi from his inner circle and later surprising his staunchest critics by signing a peace accord in 2005 to end more than two decades of devastating north-south conflict.
When ethnic insurgents launched a rebellion in Darfur in 2003, his government’s decision to unleash the armed forces and allied militia saw him slide back into isolation.
More than 300 000 people have been killed in the conflict, the UN says, and more than two million displaced.
Since 2011, he has also faced insurgencies in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, launched by the Southern People’s Liberation ArmyNorth.
In recent years, he has weathered other challenges.
Sudan’s economy suffered badly from the south’s split in 2011, losing most of its vital oil revenues.
Protests that erupted in Khartoum in September 2013 over the lifting of oil subsidies were brutally suppressed by security forces, with dozens killed.
Mr Bashir tried to smooth tensions over the protests by announcing a “national dialogue” with the opposition to address Sudan’s myriad problems.
But critics said the offer was not sincere, and Mr Bashir was further criticised when he announced in October he was running for reelection after previously denying he would.
Mr Kagame said local political leaders should not force anyone to sign the petitions. “If the allegations that some people have been forced are true, that’s a concern and you should also have that concern,” Mr Kagame told RPF members. — Reuters
Sudanese President Omar al-bashir (left) is welcomed by supporters as he arrives in Khartoum on Monday.
Supporters of Rwandan President Paul Kagame in this file picture.