African heads of states meet in Kigali to discuss ICC unease, South Sudan

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KIGALI, Rwanda – African leaders arrived in the Rwandan capital Saturday to attend a major summit which is expected to be dominated by discussions about excessive focus of international bodies on abus

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KIGALI, Rwanda – African leaders arrived in the Rwandan capital Saturday to attend a major summit which is expected to be dominated by discussions about excessive focus of international bodies on abuses in Africa and the conflict in South Sudan.

Heads of state gathered in Kigali in preparations for the 27th African Union (AU) Summit, which is going to open Sunday.

The main theme of discussion is expected to be Africa’s uneasy relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC) as some countries have renewed efforts to quit the body en masse despite opposition by some countries such as Botswana.

Leaders have repeatedly criticized the ICC over the past years for what they call an unnecessary ICC focus on African nations. They have called for a separate African court with jurisdiction over rights abuses.

“Withdrawal from [the] ICC is entirely within the sovereignty of a particular state,” Joseph Chilengi, an AU official, told reporters.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has been a major campaigner for the withdrawal from the ICC, recently called the court “useless.” However, the call seems to have hit a major snag, as Nigeria, Senegal and Ivory Coast have followed Botswana and pushed back as well.

Rwanda has invited Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC for alleged war crimes in the Darfur region. Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said the country would not arrest Bashir despite concerns that Kigali would hand over the Sudanese leader like it did to war criminal Bosco Ntaganda of Congo in 2013.

“Africa doesn’t support criminals, but when justice is involved with a lot of politics we take a pause to separate the two,” Mushikiwabo said this week.

Discussing the fresh wave of conflict in South Sudan, where deadly clashes have erupted between army factions, is also high on the agenda at the AU summit. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who is at the summit, has called for an arms embargo as a solution to the conflict which has claimed a considerable number of lives over the past days.

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