Sudanese president lands in SA, welcomed by govt

Johannesburg - Sudanese president Omar al Bashir has arrived in South Africa for the African Union summit - and it is unlikely that he will be arrested.

Bashir’s plane was spotted landing at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg just before 17:00 this afternoon, and SABC reported three hours later that he was welcomed at the airport by South African government officials and Sudanese diplomats.

Civil society organisations and the DA have called for his arrest, but News24 has reliably learnt that it was unlikely to happen.

Bashir's visit puts the South African government in a catch-22 position, because it would want to be seen, internationally, to be doing the right thing by arresting Bashir, but at the same time the arrest might tarnish its image further in the AU, where sentiment is turning against the International Criminal Court.

The ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court, however, dropped its investigation in December to focus its resources on other matters, but the arrest warrant stands.

South African government officials this week went to ground after unofficial confirmations about Bashir’s plans to travel to the country for this weekend’s AU summit in Sandton.

Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe laughed when journalists asked him for comment, and said he would have to ask International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

She, however, told a journalist that she didn’t know about Bashir’s possible arrival. President Jacob Zuma in 2009 - the same year Bashir was indicted - told the CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that Bashir would have to be arrested should he set foot in South Africa.

Zuma spoke out despite AU member states resolving at the time not to cooperate with the ICC’s arrest warrant against Bashir. AU member states have in recent times been increasingly opposed to the ICC because of attempts to prosecute Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto following elections violence.

Zuma was quoted at the time as saying that the AU resolution did not mean Bashir should not be arrested, only that the action against him should be deferred.

Bashir, who was recently re-elected by Sudan’s citizens for another five-year term.

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