Mbeki appointed to mediate ICC-Sudan squabble

Former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki
The former South Africa president Thabo Mbeki has been appointed to chair a committee to investigate human rights violations in Darfur. His appointment by the African Union follows the International Criminal Court ruling on Wednesday to indict Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

South Africa’s Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said Mr Mbeki’s role was to mediate between the ICC and Sudan.

The AU which has pleaded with the ICC to delay the charges on President Al Bashir for a year, fearing his indictment could further destabilise the situation in Darfur, held a special session to find ways to halt the ICC warrant.

Ms Nkosazana-Dlamini said the ICC’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Bashir was regrettable, and that South Africa has accepted the AU’s initial response to the ICC’s decision.

“South Africa has never countenanced any acts of impunity. However, South Africa supported the decision of the AU to defer the issuing of the warrant of arrest against President Bashir by a year to give the peace processes in the Sudan a chance,” Ms Dlamini-Zuma told local media.

Mr Mbeki brokered the deal for Zimbabwe’s political rivals to share power following last year’s disputed elections. He was however accused by some of being too lenient on President Robert Mugabe.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir yesterday rejected the arrest warrant issued by the ICC against him, saying the warrant was just a colonialists stunt to get Sudanese resources.

The AU Sudanese ambassador, Mohieldin Ahmed Salim, has in the special session called on all the AU members to pull out of the International court in protest against the warrant, which he said was unjustly.

He urged members to withdraw from the Rome Statute that established the world’s first permanent war crimes court.

The decision came as a shock to many Africa leaders fearing his indictment distabilise the fragile Darfur region, which government and rebel forces had advanced to resolve the crisis.

Meanwhile, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to Sudan to reconsider its decision of firing 13 international aid groups in Darfur aiding an estimated 4.7 million people.

“The decision by the government of Sudan to expel 13 non-governmental organisations involved in aid operations in Darfur will, if implemented, cause irrevocable damage to humanitarian operations there,” the UN statement said.

The Darfur conflict started in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government complaining of discrimination and neglect in the Darfur region. The six year conflict in Sudan has killed more than 300,000 people with more others displaced.