Khama avoids meeting Bashir?
Gaborone: After calling Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir a 'cancer' in May, President Ian Khama will not attend the 19th Ordinary Summit for Heads of State scheduled for this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. All African heads of state are expected to attend the summit, including Bashir, who is the International Criminal Court's (ICC) most wanted head of state. The ICC has issued a warrant of arrest for Sudan's first citizen for war crimes in his country.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation confirms that Phandu Skelemani will lead a delegation to the summit, which ends on July 16th. The summit will discuss, among others, the political and security situation on the African continent, the election of members of the African Union Commission and the transformation of the African Commission of the African Union into the Union Authority. The summit was initially scheduled to be held in Malawi but tension over the ICC warrant of arrest for Bashir resulted in it being shifted to Addis Ababa.
Khama stated in May that he requested Malawian president Joyce Banda not to allow Bashir into her country, further urging her to arrest and hand him over to the ICC.
During a state banquet in Namibia, less than two weeks ago, Khama lamented recent political developments in Mali and Guinea Bissau, as well as tensions between the two Sudans.
"Further, the growing tensions between Sudan and South Sudan have been a cause for concern for the continent as we had hoped for greater peace and development following South Sudan's independence. We should, however, remain resolute and undeterred in assisting the two countries to find an amicable solution to the outstanding issues between them. However, I do believe the sooner Bashir appears before the ICC to answer for his crimes against humanity, the better for peace and stability in Sudan and between Sudan and South Sudan," he said.
Reached for comment, government spokesperson Jeff Ramsay said Khama's absence at the summit is not a big issue. He said it is normal for heads of state to delegate their ministers to attend such summits on their behalf. "The summit doesn't have anything to do with meeting Bashir," he said.
The summit will also see South African Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma going against Gabonese incumbent, Jean Pierre, for the position of chairman of the African Commission.
The contest has divided the continent further since the January Summit when the first election was held. The election is potentially humiliating for South Africa, who regards herself as the continent's superpower. South African president, Jacob Zuma visited Gaborone for a few hours in April for a secret meeting with Khama. Indications were that he came to lobby Botswana to support his ex-wife for the position.
Efforts to ask Skelemani about Botswana's agenda at the summit, and whether she will cast a vote for Zuma again as she did in January, did not bear fruit as his mobile phone rang unanswered.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) reported last Sunday that South African deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe was in Tanzania to drum up support for Dlamini-Zuma. Motlanthe was scheduled to deliver a lecture and thank Tanzanians for their assistance during the fight against apartheid.
He reportedly won Tanzania's support as he argued that SADC has never held the position of AU chairperson.Reports further say the incumbent Jean Ping was in South Africa last Friday where authorities pleaded with him not to contest the position.