SA's handling of Al-Bashir 'not a high point' in Africa

2016-06-10 12:49
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrives for a group photograph of leaders at the 25th AU Summit in Johannesburg. (Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrives for a group photograph of leaders at the 25th AU Summit in Johannesburg. (Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)

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Johannesburg - The debacle involving Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir showed South Africa was unsure of what it stood for anymore, analyst Jakkie Cilliers has said. 

It was not clear whether, in terms of foreign policy, the country stood for constitutional values, or allowing an alleged human rights violator and war criminal into the country without arresting him, Cilliers said.

He is head of African Futures and Innovation at the Institute for Security Studies. He was speaking during a discussion of Liesl Louw-Vaudran’s book Superpower or Neocolonialist? South Africa in Africa, at the ISS on Thursday.

Al-Bashir is wanted on charges of crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes by the International Criminal Court. 

Louw-Vaudran said issues affecting the way South Africa was viewed on the continent included the election of

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as African Union Commission chairperson. It had been a bruising battle from which the continental body still had not fully recovered.

The next blemish was Al-Bashir’s visit, she said.

“South Africa took the stance and let Al-Bashir go in order to show solidarity with the continent. From the response of the rest of the continent, it was really not a high point.”

In June last year, Al-Bashir entered South Africa for an African Union summit. The SA Litigation Centre obtained a high court order preventing him from leaving and ordering the government to arrest him. Despite this, the government allowed him to leave.

NGOs criticized the government for not arresting him, saying it did not show South Africa in a good light.

“To be realistic, the minute when he came here, for South Africa to run out on the tarmac and handcuff Al-Bashir was not thinkable, but he should never have come,” Louw-Vaudran said.

“The SA government’s diplomacy in the run-up to that event failed.”

She said the third issue affecting South Africa’s image negatively was xenophobia. Last year’s attacks were so bad that South Africans in other countries on the continent were targeted, she said.

Louw-Vaudran said with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma in the race to be the country’s next president in 2017, there was a good chance they would have foreign policy as their strong point.

Read more on:    omar al-bashir  |  sudan  |  johannesburg

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