Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who faces charges of crimes against humanity, visited Zimbabwe on Sunday for a regional trade meeting.
Al-Bashir landed Saturday in the capital, Harare, for the two-day African leaders’ summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on March 4, accusing him of complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity in his government’s campaign against rebels in Darfur in western Sudan. It was the first arrest warrant for a sitting head of state by the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal, based at The Hague in the Netherlands. Sudan expelled 13 international aid agencies from the Darfur region after the warrant was issued. Al-Bashir has denied the charges, calling them an attempt by Western powers to recolonize Sudan. The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 after rebels in the western region of Sudan began attacking government positions. The government responded with a fierce military campaign that has left about 300,000 dead and more than 2.5 million displaced, the United Nations estimates. The International Criminal Court has no arrest powers and depends on its 106-member states to take suspects into custody. Al-Bashir has visited other counties, including Qatar and Ethiopia, since the warrant was issued. In Zimbabwe, the summit will be at the Victoria Falls, a popular tourism spot on the Zambezi River. Sudan is a member of the trade group, which consists of 19 African nations.