By Henry Mukasa
UGANDA and Sudan have agreed that Sudanese President Omar el Bashir will not attend the conference in Kampala next week to avoid what Kampala termed a possible â€œdiplomatic incident.â€
â€œWe agreed that he will delegate,â€ James Mugume, the Permanent Secretary of the foreign ministry, said yesterday.
Bashir was invited to attend the Smart Partnership conference, which starts on July 26.
However, the ICC chief prosecutor, Luis-Moreno Ocampo, on Monday said Uganda, as a signatory to the Rome Statute, had an obligation to arrest the Sudanese president.
The ICC has indicted Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Darfur region.
Asked whether Bashir would send his deputy, Mugume said it was up to the Sudanese leader to choose a representative.
â€œThe word in democratic parlance is delegate. He will delegate whether it will be a minister or a special envoy.â€
The Sudanese media have been awash with hostile articles and commentaries, urging their leader not to honour Ugandaâ€™s invitation.
â€œLots of Africans worship money and for money they would do anything. Therefore, Mr. President should not indulge in this adventure,â€ Kamal Hassan Bakheit, editor-in-chief of the daily Al-Rayaam, said.
Bakheit, who is also Bashirâ€™s nephew, accused Uganda of being a safe haven for foreign intelligence agents, including from Israel, saying they want to â€˜ambushâ€™ him when he travels there.
The Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig was quoted by the press as saying he had no information about Bashir's travel plans to Uganda.
A near diplomatic row erupted after international relations minister Okello Oryem on Monday said a warrant of arrest had been deposited at the office of the Solicitor General.
President Yoweri Museveni, in a telephone conversation with Bashir, reportedly said he was sorry that the media made it appear as if Bashir would be arrested upon arrival in Kampala.
He explained that Uganda would wait for the outcome of the Thabo Mbeki committee before making a judgment on the indictment.
In a balancing act, regional cooperation minister Isaac Musumba in Parliament on Wednesday suggested that Bashir should stay away to avoid a diplomatic incident.
â€œWhile we are mindful of our international obligations, we at the same time wish to avoid a possible diplomatic incident that may arise as a result of a visit by President Bashir at this point in time,â€ he told MPs.