Panafrican News Agency

Uganda may grant al-Bashir asylum – Minister

Kampala, Uganda (PANA) – The deposed leader of Sudan, Omar al-Bahir, can be granted asylum in Uganda if he applies for it, Uganda’s junior minister of foreign affairs has said.

Mr Hillary Onek, the minister of state for foreign Affairs, was Tuesday addressing a news conference at the Parliament of Uganda. Until now, he is the most high-ranking government official to comment on the overthrow of Bashir, who ruled Uganda for 30 years.

“President Omar al-Bashir was co-guarantor for the peace agreement of South Sudan; he has played a very critical role [in the South Sudan peace process] which we are very grateful for and his asylum in Uganda is something we can consider,” Onek said.

Al-Bashir and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni started out as enemies in the 1990s, with al-Bashir accused of supporting Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels that terrorised northern Uganda for close to two decades and were accused of committing numerous atrocities against the people of Uganda.

Sudan’s al-Bashir offered Kony support and was sometimes said to shelter the rebel leader in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, in retaliation for Uganda’s support for the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) then led by John Garang, which was fighting against what it said was the marginalization of the people of South Sudan in the Arab-dominated Sudan.

SPLA eventually signed a peace agreement with Sudan in 2005, which granted South Sudan semi-autonomous status with the option of voting in a referendum on whether to break away from Sudan and form a nation of their own or to remain as a part of a united Sudan.

The South Sudanese, in 2011, voted for independence.

The new republic of South Sudan created a buffer between Sudan and Uganda, and attention seemed to shift to stabilising the new republic, which has been unstable since 2013.

Museveni and al-Bashir have been involved in efforts to stabilise South Sudan, with each of the leaders separately accused of trying to influence the situation in South Sudan to their advantage.

As this process is on, al-Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over alleged war crimes in Darfur, a part of Sudan, a development that brought al-Bashir and Museveni closer.

Museveni is the African Union president and has probably spoken out most pointedly against the ICC, accusing it of arrogance and failure to take Africa’s history into context as they sought to intervene to solve Africa’s problems.   

At Kenya president Uhuru Kenyatta’s first swearing-in ceremony in March 2013, Museveni rebuked ICC before an audience that received his message very well.

Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, have been indicted by the ICC over the post-election violence that engulfed Kenya in 2007-08.

At Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony in May 2016, al-Bashir, who was indicted by ICC, was a key guest. Uganda, being a signatory to the Rome Statute that set up the ICC, is obliged to arrest anyone indicted by ICC the moment such a person steps on its soil, but al-Bashir got VIP treatment as a head of state.

If Uganda were to grant al-Bashir asylum as the minister says, the country’s leadership would inevitably come under pressure from activists of all sorts.  

-0- PANA EM/VAO 16April2019