Sudan President Omar Hassan al- Bashir will not attend an African Union summit in Uganda, said presidential sources, despite a resolution urging African states not to arrest the leader wanted for genocide.
In a further snub, Khartoum will not even send a minister from Khartoum to the summit, official sources said.
The move deepens a rift between the neighbours after President Yoweri Museveni did not attend Bashir’s swearing-in after disputed elections, but visited Juba for the inauguration of South Sudan President Salva Kiir, Bashir’s deputy.
“This is not about the president being afraid of being arrested,” one presidential source told Reuters. “We could send the vice president instead but we are not sending him or any minister,” the source said.
The International Criminal Court added genocide this month to charges issued last year against Bashir of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the war-torn Darfur region where the United Nations estimates a humanitarian crisis has claimed 300,000 lives since a 2003 revolt by rebels demanding more wealth and power.
But the AU has accused the court of double standards and of targeting the continent. A draft AU resolution seen by Reuters on Saturday in Kampala told member states not to arrest Bashir.
Bashir himself rarely fails to attend an AU summit and, intent on wooing its African allies, Sudan always sends high-level representation to the meetings.
The Sudanese permanent representative to the AU will head the delegation, the sources said.
The snub also follows a diplomatic faux pas by Uganda which retracted a statement last month that Bashir was not invited to the summit after Khartoum asked the AU to switch venue.
In defiance of the ICC warrant Bashir visited Chad last week — the first time he has travelled to a full member of the court — and returned triumphantly praising African solidarity.
The visit exposed the ICC’s key weakness — it has no police force and relies on member states to arrest suspects.
Uganda asked the ICC to investigate its northern rebellion and the court issued its first arrest warrants for commanders from the Ugandan insurgent Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Museveni also has a strong relationship with south Sudan, a semi-autonomous region which has fought a bloody civil war on and off with Khartoum since 1955.
The south will vote in a referendum on independence in January 2011, and most analysts expect it will secede.