DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Tanzania wants the International Criminal Court (ICC) to suspend moves to arrest Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide in Darfur, its foreign affairs minister said on Monday.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo on Monday charged Bashir with masterminding a campaign of genocide in Darfur, killing 35,000 people and using rape as a weapon of war. He asked the court to issue an arrest warrant for Bashir.
“We would like ICC to suspend its decision to seek al-Bashir’s arrest for a moment until we sort out the primary problems in Darfur and southern Sudan,” Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Membe told Reuters, speaking on behalf of Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete who chairs the African Union.
“We are asking ICC to re-examine its decision.”
Membe added that it was “not the right time” to seek Bashir’s arrest.
“If you arrest al-Bashir, you will create a leadership vacuum in Sudan. The outcome could be equal to that of Iraq. There would be an increase in anarchy, there would be an increase in civil war. Fighting between Chad and Sudan would increase,” he told Reuters.
A statement issued by the AU headquarters in Ethiopia said the pan-African body was holding consultations on the indictment and planned to send a top official to Khartoum.
“The commissioner for peace and security, Ambassador Ramtane Lamara, will be travelling tonight to the Sudan to meet with President Omar al-Bashir and other senior officials of the government of Sudan,” the statement said.
Reporting by Ezekiel Kamwaga; Additional reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse in Addis Ababa; Editing by Andrew Dobbie