KIGALI, Rwanda — African leaders gathered in the Rwandan capital on Saturday for a summit that is expected to discuss the latest violence in South Sudan as well as the continent’s uneasy relationship with the International Criminal Court.
Ahead of Sunday’s summit of heads of state, some African countries have renewed efforts to quit the ICC en masse despite the opposition of some countries like Botswana. Nigeria, Senegal and Ivory Coast have been pushing back as well in recent days.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has led growing criticism of the ICC, recently calling it “useless.”
Some countries say the ICC focuses only on Africa. Some want a separate African court with jurisdiction over rights abuses.
“Withdrawal from ICC is entirely within the sovereignty of a particular state,” Joseph Chilengi, an AU official, told reporters.
President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, who is wanted by the ICC for alleged atrocities in the country’s Darfur region, is invited to the summit, but it is not clear if he will attend.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said this week that Rwanda would not arrest Bashir.
“Africa doesn’t support criminals, but when justice is involved with a lot of politics we take a pause to separate the two,” Mushikiwabo told reporters. Although Rwanda has not ratified the Rome Statute that is the basis for the ICC, it handed over suspected war criminal Bosco Ntaganda of Congo to the court in 2013.
The summit comes after new violence in South Sudan, where clashing army factions raised concerns of a return to civil war. The chaos underscored the fragility of a peace deal signed last August between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar.
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon, who is at the summit, has called for an arms embargo.
Muhumuza reported from Kampala, Uganda.