December 15, 2011 (PARIS) The president of Djibouti Ismail Omar Guelleh defended his Sudanese counterpart Omer Hassan al-Bashir saying that he had the “courage” to accept the secession of the south.
Sadiq al-Mahdi, head of the National Umma Party, the country’s largest opposition party, speaks to Reuters during an interview in Omdurman December 12, 2011 (Reuters)
South Sudan officially became an independent state last July after a referendum held in January showed overwhelming desire by Southerners in to break away from the north. The plebiscite on self-determination of the southern population was a key part of Sudan’s 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended over two-decades of a bloody civil war between Christian dominated south and the north, which is governed by Islamic Shari’a Law. In an interview with Paris-based Jeune Afrique this month, Guelleh said that he took the decision to receive Bashir for his inauguration ceremony last May despite being a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which issued two arrest warrants for the Sudanese leader in 2009 and 2010. “I received him in all conscience because I believe he does not deserve to be dragged before the ICC. I’m sorry, but Bashir is not what is said of him” Guelleh said. “He is the only Sudanese leader to have had the courage to negotiate with the South, and accepted the amputation of his country in the name of peace” he added. The Djiboutian president slammed Sudanese opposition leaders and singled out former prime minister and leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) al-Sadiq al-Mahdi. “Remember how his [Bashir’s] opponents today starting with Sadiq el-Mahdi, treated the southern Sudanese like slaves” he said. Guelleh dismissed the Darfur conflict’s labels of genocide as a plot by “lobbies and pro-Israel evangelicals”. “Yes, Djibouti is a signatory of the Statute of the ICC. But that does not stop me to say that the practice of this court, which is only interested in African politicians is wrong” he stressed. The ICC judges reported Djibouti’s non-compliance with the warrant to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) but the latter took no action. The African Union (AU) in several resolutions since July 2009 ordered its members not to cooperate with the court in arresting Bashir even if they are ICC members. (ST)