Western diplomats attending yesterday’s swearing-in ceremony of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala walked out unceremoniously in protest of what they said was Museveni’s scathing remarks about the International Criminal Court.
Museveni, who was controversially sworn in for his fifth consecutive term in office, is reported to have attacked the ICC, describing it as “a bunch of useless people,” even declaring that he no longer supports the court.
The presence of Sudan’s President Omar-Al-Bashir – who is facing charges of genocide at the ICC – at the inaugural ceremony is also said to have forced delegations from the US, EU and Canada to walk out, according to the US State Department.
“We believe that walking out in protest is an appropriate reaction to a head of state mocking efforts to ensure accountability for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, particularly when his country has committed to accountability as a state party to the Rome Statute,” said the US state department’s spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau.
Uganda’s President Museveni was sworn in yesterday for his fifth consecutive term in office after he controversially won presidential elections in February this year. Museveni was declared the winner having garnered 60.8 percent of the total vote.
However, his main challenger and longtime political rival Dr. Kizza Besigye, who got 35.4 percent, dismissed the results, terming them as total “fraud.” International observers including the European Union criticized the poll, saying it was conducted in a hostile and intimidating environment.
Amama Mbabazi, the former Prime Minister of Uganda who placed third in February’s poll, filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging Museveni’s victory, but the case was later dismissed on grounds that there was no enough evidence.
Dr. Besigye and his supporters have been staging protests in Kampala since the February elections, leading to their arrest.
Besigye is currently in police custody after he was arrested on Wednesday when he dramatically swore himself in as the President of Uganda, just hours before Museveni’s swearing-in.
Sudanese President Omar-al-Bashir was summoned by the Hague-based ICC in March 2009 to answer to charges of war crimes that were committed during the six years of civil war in Darfur.
President Bashir is being charged as an indirect co-perpetrator, with five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes, and three counts of genocide that were allegedly committed between 2003 and 2008 in Darfur, Sudan.
However, Bashir has remained defiant, even telling the ICC to “eat” their warrant of arrest. His case still remains in the pre-trial stage as the court awaits his arrest; the ICC does not try individuals who are not present in the courtroom.