Everything was going on well in Kampala during President Yoweri Museveni’s swearing in on Thursday until some Western officials walked out of the ceremony.
The decision to walk out of Museveni’s inauguration was fueled by Uganda’s veteran President mockery comment against the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In his inaugural address, President Museveni 71, vowed in front of the heads of state, diplomats and other guests he would fight corruption, and impose discipline on inefficient bureaucracy during his next five-year term of office.
Thursday's swearing in which will extend Museveni’s rule to 35 years since he took over power in 1986, was attended by African leaders from Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya, South Africa, and Somalia.
But when he was introducing President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, who was in attendance, Museveni offended US, European Union, and Canadian officials in attendance when he criticized the ICC and dismissed it as "a bunch of useless people."
“We are less concerned with the ICC because initially when it was introduced, we thought they were serious. But it has come to our knowledge that the court is a bunch of useless people,’’ Mr Museveni said.
US state department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said: "In response to President Bashir's presence and President Museveni's remarks, the United States delegation, along with representatives of the European Union countries and Canada, departed the inauguration ceremonies to demonstrate our objection."
"We believe that walking out in protest is an appropriate reaction to a head of state mocking efforts to ensure accountability for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity," Ms Trudeau said.
Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes called on Uganda to face up to its “international obligations and arrest Omar Al-Bashir who is wanted on charges of genocide.”
As a signatory to the Rome Statute, Muthoni said Uganda has an absolute obligation to surrender Bashir to the ICC. “Failure to do so would be a breach of its duty and would be a cruel betrayal of the hundreds of thousands of people killed and displaced during the Darfur conflict.”
Bashir has been in The Hague-based court’s wanted list after it issued international warrants in 2009 and 2010 on charges of genocide for atrocities in Sudan. In theory, states signatory to the ICC have a legal duty to arrest the court’s suspects on their territory, but African leaders are reluctant of this duty.
Last June, Bashir traveled to Johannesburg to attend the African Union Summit however, South African officials failed to arrest Sudan’s President despite being a signatory to the Rome Statute. A recent ruling by the Supreme Court of South Africa called the behavior of the authorities “disgraceful” for their failure to arrest President Al-Bashir.
“President Al-Bashir cannot be allowed to evade justice any longer,” said Muthoni Wanyeki. “The government of President Museveni must act now to arrest him and ensure that the next flight he takes flies directly to The Hague where justice awaits him.”
Image credit: The Observer