TANZANIA: Al Bashir's arrest warrant irks Dar

Tanzania has expressed discontent over today's move by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of issuing an arrest warrant for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, saying the step has been taken at a very wrong time.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Mr Bernard Membe, said in Dar es Salaam today that the unfortunate action would paralyse efforts to restore peace and stability in that country, resulting in protracted suffering of the people. ICC announced its decision to indict Mr Al- Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes at its offices in The Hague.

Mr Membe told the Daily News that it was disheartening to see Tanzania's and Africa's advice on the best way of handling the matter was ignored by the world. We advised them to wait until peace was restored in Darfur, knowing that indicting President Al-Bashir at this time would disrupt the entire efforts. The Arab world issued the same advice, he said.

We warned of the serious repercussions of this move but they have decided to go it alone. If it happens that what we cautioned is what actually takes place there, someone should be responsible. We have to reach that stage, he added. The minister said the arrest warrant was issued at a time when the world was preparing to send 17,000 peacekeeping troops to Darfur and South Sudan was preparing to go to polls in May in compliance to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The peacekeeping operation will, therefore, be disrupted since its success depends on cooperation between the world and the Sudanese government…troops as well as cargoes and transport helicopters for the operation have to pass through Sudan. If the president is arrested there is no way they can allow any movement, he said.

We told them to wait until we resolve the outstanding matters. President Al-Bashir is there, he was not going anywhere…They handled the Iraqi issue in the same way and as a result there has been fighting since then, he added. Mr Membe said Tanzania, which was a signatory to ICC, hoped that the United Nations would use Article 16 of the Rome Statute which empowers the world body to defer the court's decision.

It has been decided, so we are, therefore, waiting to see what would happen next, he said. The ICC move makes President Al-Bashir the first sitting head of state to be charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. The African Union has long argued against any warrant being issued, saying the move would strike a fatal blow to faltering efforts to bring peace to Darfur.

He is accused of a range of crimes, including the deliberate attempt to destroy ethnic groups deemed to be supporting rebel factions in Darfur region. However, the three-judge panel which made the decision said there was insufficient evidence to support the more controversial charges of genocide. The government in Khartoum immediately dismissed the move as thousands of Sudanese took to the streets to vent their anger. However, the warrant was hailed by Darfur’s main rebel leader and international rights groups who said it was an important signal to other world leaders.

Daily News          

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