Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why Uganda cannot arrest Bashir

I am reminded of a common African proverb that goes, "Let the guest come so that the hosts may benefit." It is a belief that guests bring blessings to those who welcome them warmly. The arrival of a very important guest is often accompanied with slaughtering of chicken, goats or a cow. Also, a special meal is prepared and accompanied with drink and dance.

In Uganda, growing up in Iganga during the 1980s, at home, we considered it politeness to sacrifice the best for the guests. If the guest is to spend a night at the host's home, the host could offer to sleep on the floor in order to make the guest comfortable. Of course this hosptiality only lasts for as long as the guest does not overstay.

At home, I recall one chilly evening when guests arrived up as we took tea and bread to kill off the coldness. As chidlren, we knew and respected the rule. We readily left our sugary, ginger-flavoured, hot tea and buttered bread to children in the visiting party. This was because the tea pot was already empty; and preparing more tea would delay the guests' departure.

I say this against the background of the impending arrest of Sudanese President Omar el Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity if he steps in Uganda. The ICC accuses Bashir of organising attacks on civilians in the Darfur region of Sudan. The news of the impending arrest was quick and eventually, it has been decided that Bashir will not attend the SMART Partnership conference in Kampala this week (on July 26th).

The Uganda government has spoken out that they would love to avoid a “diplomatic incident.” But this should not be interpreted that Uganda is not brave enough. This was a clash of cultures. This is what makes ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis-Moreno Ocampo's western society different from the African society of Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni.

If anything, Uganda has an axe to grind with the Sudanese leader who is known to have supported the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels for long. While Uganda may be signatory to the Rome Statute that brought the International Criminal Court into existence and bound by all the provisions, Uganda is also governed by people who rever their culture and cannot take advantage of a guest, who moreover is a Head of State. Now, how would it be possible for Uganda to turn a sumptous State dinner, into a moment of betrayal?

It is because of the African culture, that it may be hard to arrest Bashir in any African country while he is still a serving President. It makes me think that if the Ugandan government had all intent to assist in arresting President Bashir, all they would have done would be to keep quiet without announcing, and he is arrested upon arrival. He would be let to fly into the snare at Entebbe.

No one puts it better than Uganda's state minister for regional cooperation Isaac Musumba who said, “While we are mindful of our international obligations, we at the same time wish to avoid a possible diplomatic incident that may arise as a result.”

1 comment:

  1. The arrest of Bashir could have been simple. Ocampo could have come with his goons, left them in the country, when he jets out and as soon as Bashir arrives, the goons lay siege on him. They would then put him in a dark sack and drag him to The Hague. But, not as simple as my unseriousness may sound.
    If M7 could have taken it upon himself to arrest Bashir, the same would happen to him. May be Ocampo would accuse him of the same crimes, go to Kenya and talk to Kibaki, or Raila, requesting them to arrest M7.
    Then, when Kibaki or Raila arrests M7 for Ocampo, the man of The Hague would then go to Tanzania and request Kikwete to arrest Kibaki or Raila. And the cycle of arrests would spill even North (Gaddafi) to South (Mugabe), East and West.