Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir will not be part of next month’s summit of the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in South Africa.
While the Sudan embassy said President Bashir had pressing domestic issues to attend to, indications are that he may have been requested to skip the visit by both the South African and Chinese governments.
Highly placed government sources said the two countries fear the Sudan leader’s presence would detract attention from the summit.
The Sudanese embassy in Pretoria on Wednesday confirmed its leader would skip the December summit.
Embassy spokesman Saif Ahmed said President Bashir will be represented by his deputy, Mr Bakri Hasan Saleh, at the summit.
“It is worth mentioning that the Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir is currently engaged in highly important domestic issues, including the following up of the national dialogue, as well as the Addis Ababa round of negotiations between the Sudan and the armed groups,” Mr Ahmed said.
The South African government has been under pressure to avoid hosting President Bashir after the June debacle at the Africa Summit in Johannesburg when it failed to follow enforce a local court order to arrest the Sudan leader.
The court order was subsequent to a demand by the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague to hold the Sudanese leader.
ICC’S ARREST PLAN
The ICC wants him arrested for crimes against humanity, but the South African government defied the North Gauteng High Court’s ruling ordering his detention.
Mr Ahmed stressed that President Bashir recently participated in three consecutive summits, suggesting he did not need to be part of the FOCAC summit in South Africa.
The summits were the China-Africa, conference in Beijing, the India-Africa Forum in New Delhi, and the summit of Arab-South American held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Last month, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said it had taken preemptive action to ensure that South Africa arrests Bashir, if he comes to South Africa again.
This seemed to refer to the possible attendance of the Sudanese leader at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) which is taking place in Sandton on December 4 and 5.
She appeared to be concerned that the continuing legal wrangles over Bashir’s June visit might give Pretoria a pretext not to arrest him if he does enter South Africa again.
The ICC originally gave Pretoria until October 5 to submit its reasons for disobeying an explicit request from the court, on June 13, to arrest Bashir.
The court would then decide if South Africa had violated its obligations to the ICC to arrest Al-Bashir.
If so it would be referred to the UN Security Council for possible punishment.
STILL AWAITING EXPLANATION
On October 2, the South African government asked the ICC for more time to submit its reasons for not arresting the Sudanese leader, as it said the South African courts were still dealing with the same issue.
The South African government has appealed the decision by the North Gauteng High Court that the government violated the South African constitution by failing to arrest Bashir.
On October 15, Judge Cuno Tarfusser, presiding over the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber II granted Pretoria’s request for an extended deadline to submit its reasons.
He ordered South Africa to promptly inform the ICC of any relevant developments in the South African court case.
If there were no developments by December 15, South Africa should inform the ICC by December 31 of the state of the legal proceedings.