ON Sunday 14 August 2013, President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan braved all odds and arrived in Abuja for the African Union Summit on HIV/AIDS, an important event to assess the ten-year initiative of the AU to tackle the epidemic. Nigeria, as a signatory to the International Court of Justice, ICC, was expected to arrest Al Bashir.
All signatories to the ICC were meant to arrest him whenever he sets foot in their jurisdiction for his alleged crimes against humanity during the Darfur crises.
Al Bashir allegedly armed Arab militias to kill, maim and chase indigenous African populations of the Darfur Region away from their villages. The crisis that gave Sudan and its leaders pariah status before the international community was the reason for the decision. He is the first sitting president on which the ICC has issued an arrest order.
Nigeria decided to align with the resolution of the AU not to comply with the arrest warrant. AU, the organiser of the event, invited Al Bashir, Nigeria hosted him. Some African countries have threatened to arrest Al Bashir, the choice would be theirs, just as Kenya, Chad, and Djibouti had received him. In addition to the AU, the League of Arab States, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the governments of Russia and China oppose the ICC decision.
Al Bashir left after meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan and other African leaders. Speculations that he would be arrested were fuelled with the Nigerian civil society groups’ threats to get Nigerian courts orders to arrest Al Bashir. The threats fell flat for the hypocrisy they represented. The same groups are barely audible on national issues, until promptings from their foreign collaborators.
We agree with the Federal Government’s handling of Al Bashir’s visit. Nigeria provided leadership in ensuring the AU’s position. This matter goes beyond the person of Al Bashir and the alleged crimes he perpetrated in his country. Since the AU has undertaken to tackle the issue, we must encourage it to put its words into action.
Africa must look inwards for solutions to its internal problems, rather than continue to be dictated to by foreign powers who have never surrendered any of their incumbent leaders to the international organisations for punishment or sanctions. The ICC appears to be pursuing neo-colonial agenda against African interests.
It is against African culture to maltreat our visitors, let alone get them arrested and handed over to their accusers. As continental leader, Nigeria must draw the line and say no when the West forces itself on Africa, in the most discriminatory manner.
What is left is for Nigeria to ensure AU concludes its investigations into Al Bashir’s role in Darfur.