Sudan peace more important than Bashir arrest: AU boss
8/1/2012 7:10:01 PM -
PRETORIA (AFP) - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, is vital to ongoing peace efforts and should not be arrested, the African Union's top executive said Wednesday.
"It is important to get peace in Sudan, specially in Darfur, President al- Bashir has to be part of that," Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the new head of the AU commission, told a forum of former African heads of state.
"It is more important to get peace in Sudan than to rush for an arrest."
The meeting attended by seven former presidents -- including Mozambique's Joaquim Chissano, Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Malawi's Bakili Muluzi and Ghana's John Kufuor -- was part of a series of consultations before she takes up her new position.
The Sudanese leader is the first sitting president indicted by the ICC, based in The Hague, on several counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the long-running Darfur conflict.
Bashir has been able to travel freely to several countries that have signed the ICC's founding treaty and are legally bound to arrest him, drawing sharp criticism from the West.
In June Malawi cancelled its hosting of the AU summit over the bloc's insistence on inviting Bashir. Malawi is facing a sharp economic crisis and said it did not want to risk losing foreign aid.
The summit was eventually held in Addis Ababa, where the pan-African organisation is headquartered.
In 2009, the African Union (AU) said it would not respect the ICC warrant and urged the United Nations to suspend it.
"It may not be easy but we have to do it. We must at all times find settlement to our conflicts. If we don't find them, who will," said Dlamini-Zuma on chances of finding a solution to the Darfur conflict.
Dlamini-Zuma was elected to the position last month after defeating Jean Ping of Gabon in a narrow vote. She is the first woman to hold the post.