Article published on the 2009-02-02 Latest update 2009-02-02 15:29 TU
African leaders elected Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi as its rotating Chairperson Monday, the first day of the 53-nation African Union’s annual meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Also at the meeting, Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir won support for asking the International Criminal Court to postpone pursuing a war crimes trial against him.
"I hope my term will be a time of serious work and not just words," said Gaddafi in his inaugural speech. He has long pushed for African unity, something that has worried other leaders, concerned about losing sovereignty.
"I shall continue to insist that our sovereign countries work to achieve the United States of Africa," he said, admitting that African leaders were "not near to a settlement" on the issue.
At the opening day Sudan’s President got the AU to agree to call for a one-year suspension of the ICC’s case against him, saying the trial could threaten the peace process in Sudan.
The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, issued an arrest warrant for Beshir in July, accusing him of war crimes in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.
Jean Ping, Chairman of the African Union Commission, says the ICC has double standards.
“There is a problem with ICC targeting only Africans,” he told RFI. “But if ICC always targets only the Africans, does it mean that you have nothing in Gaza? Does it mean you have nothing Caucuses? Does it mean that you have nothing in the militants in Colombia? There is nothing in Iraq? We are raising this type of question because we don’t want the double standard.”
Ping said that Africans need to “put our house into order” by trying their own criminals. He said he asked former South African president Thabo Mbeki to head a panel that would look into how to mete justice, while not hampering peace efforts.
Deng Alor, Sudan’s Foreign Affairs Minister, told RFI that while he and his fellow foreign ministers condemn the ICC’s prosecuting a sitting head of state, they recognise the need for justice.
“We must address the issue of impunity: that the government of Sudan is obliged to bring to justice all those who are accused to have committed crimes in Darfur,” said Alor. “So the resolution that is going to come from the AU is going to be a balanced one: calling for the ICC to defer either the warrant for arrest, or the application of the warrant for arrest.”
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