Rwanda rul­ing party wants Kagame to run again

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

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.

— AFP

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.

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