Uganda has backtracked on a decision to bar Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir from the African Union summit in Kampala next month, saying the leader, who is wanted for war crimes, has actually been invited.
Sudan reacted angrily to an announcement by Uganda over the weekend that Bashir had not been invited to the July meeting. Khartoum demanded an apology from Uganda and called on the AU to switch the summit to another venue.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of ordering mass murder, rape and torture in western Darfur. He denies the charges but has seen his travel restricted since an arrest warrant was issued for him last year.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to clarify … President Bashir of Sudan was actually invited for the AU Summit,” Uganda said statement issued earlier this week.
“The Sudanese embassy in Kampala has confirmed that they received and sent the invitation letter to Khartoum,” the statement read, adding that all African heads of state have been invited for the Summit except “those who were suspended from the AU for specific reasons.”
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s office previously said Sudan would be represented by other government officials. Bashir was sworn in for another term as leader last month after winning an election marred by boycotts.
African leaders have asked the Hague-based court to postpone any action against Bashir but the warrant has not been lifted.
Uganda has signed up to the court, which has also issued arrest warrants for Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army rebels. But Kampala has said it respects the African Union position with regard to not cooperating on the Bashir case.
Bashir, the only sitting head of state wanted by the ICC, has had to choose his trips carefully but he has made a point of travelling to friendly nations in the Middle East and Africa, including Saudi Arabia, Libya and Eritrea.
South Africa said last month that Bashir had been invited to the continent’s first World Cup along with the rest of Africa’s leadership, but the president said his country would be obliged to arrest him if he took up the invitation.
Sudanese state media and Ugandan newspapers reported in July last year that Museveni had called Bashir to apologise for comments from a junior minister that Kampala might arrest him if he attended a previous meeting in Uganda.
Bashir did not attend that meeting and in November pulled out of an Islamic summit in Istanbul, after reports Turkey was under pressure from the European Union to drop him from the guest list.