|Africa News Digest
Sudan's President Defies ICC, Flies to Cairo
March 25 (EIRNS)Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir visited Egypt today and met with President Hosni Mubarak for more than an hour at the Cairo airport. This is al-Bashir's second flight outside the country since the arrest warrant against him was issued by the International Criminal Court March 4, and since the ICC prosecutor announced that al-Bashir could be kidnapped as soon as he flew outside the country. Yesterday, al-Bashir visited Eritrea.
Behind the defiance of the ICC, lies an interesting development. Arabic press reports hinted today that Egypt is working to narrow the gap between the Sudanese government and the U.S. Administration. Mubarak reportedly sent his intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, to Washington for that purpose. Various Arabic media reported today that the speculation in Cairo is that a deal with the U.S. may be in the making through Egyptian mediation, which includes a U.S. decision to seek to defer or stop the ICC decision, in return for the Sudanese government's acceptance of the return of humanitarian organizations to Darfur. The same reports connect this speculation to the fact that the Obama Administration, unlike Europe, has taken a negative position with regard to the ICC (the U.S. is not a signator of the ICC charter). The Arabic press features statements by U.S. State Department spokesman Brian Wood yesterday, that "we are under no obligation to the ICC to arrest President Bashir. We're not a party to the Rome Statute."
At today's State Department press briefing, spokesman Gordon Duguid was asked about Mubarak's meeting with Bashir, and the reporter commented that it didn't appear that al-Bashir would be arrested in Cairo. "Egypt is not a signatory to the ICC," was the response. He said that all U.S. efforts right now are aimed at finding diplomatic ways to ease the suffering of those in Darfur, and reversing the expulsion of the NGOs, and that discussions about other matters "don't help us get that job done."
For the first time, the Sudanese and the Arabs clearly see that the U.S. position is different than that of Britain and continental Europe. The Arabs and the Sudanese view President Obama and the State Department as focussed on the "humanitarian" aspect, as a sign that Obama would be more inclined to supporting the peace process in Darfur, rather than pushing "regime change" in Khartoum. This is supported by the fact that Obama appointed a special envoy, Gen. Scott Gration, to negotiate with the government of Sudan on these matters.
The Egyptian foreign minister, in a press conference with his Sudanese counterpart Deng Alor, following the meeting between the two Presidents, reiterated Egypt's rejection of the ICC decision. He stated that the talks between Mubarak and al-Bashir focussed on relief work in Darfur and the peace process with the rebel groups there. He suggested that Egyptian, Islamic, and African aid organizations should replace the international organizations removed by the Sudanese government on suspicion of spying. This is regarded as a first step toward opening an international discussion on the relief work and peace in Darfur, as an alternative to the provocations of the ICC.
South Africa Says 'No' to Dalai Lama
March 23 (EIRNS)"We in the South African government have not invited the Dalai Lama to visit South Africa, because it would not be in the interests of South Africa," said Thabo Masebe, spokesman for South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, after South Africa's Embassy in New Delhi denied travel documents to the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama had planned to join notables, including three South African Nobel Peace Prize winners, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and F.W. de Klerk, at a conference March 27, to discuss ways of using soccer to fight racism and xenophobia, as South Africa prepares to host the 2010 World Cup.
The South African spokesman explained, "The attention of the world is on South Africa because of it being the host country for the 2010 World Cup, and we wouldn't want anything to distract from that."
China, which has been steadily increasing its economic and political support for Africa, most notably for the politically embattled countries of Sudan and Zimbabwe, had strongly urged South Africa not to provide a platform for the Dalai Lama. China's minister counsellor at the embassy in Pretoria, Dai Bing, said that his government had urged South Africa to deny the visit, warning it would harm bilateral relations.
China has showed its displeasure with France in a number of ways, after French President Nicholas Sarkozy met with the Dalai Lama.
The British press, along with pro-British organizations such as the Nobel Prize Committee, have expressed pique at South Africa's decision. The various notables have threatened not to attend the conference at all, if the Dalai Lama is not in attendance. And, without the big names, there is no press draw, and no reason for the conference at all, which would be the best of all possible outcomes.