US Congressmen target Djibouti leader

AMERICAN Congressmen are asking the US government to stop President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti from attending the upcoming UN General Assembly in New York after his government failed to arrest Sudanese President Bashir al-Bashir on an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant.

They recently wrote two separate letters to Secretary of State John Kerry for the US government to take action.

In July, the ICC referred the governments of Djibouti and Uganda to the UN and the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties (ASP) for their failure to arrest the Sudanese president – who is facing war crimes charges at the court – when he visited these countries.

The Sudanese leader, for whom the ICC has issued two arrest warrants, is facing five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes and three counts of genocide allegedly committed in the Darfur Region in western Sudan.

According to the Rome Statute of the ICC, state parties are obliged to execute two arrest warrants for President al-Bashir issued on March 18, 2009 and August 31, 2010.

He visited Djibouti on May 8 for the inauguration of President Guelleh and Uganda on May 11 for the inauguration of President Yoweri Museveni, both of whom had won controversial elections.

In his letter to Mr Kerry, Congressman Lou Barletta urged the Secretary of State to deny visas to attend the General Assembly to President al-Bashir ‘and any other world leaders who provide safe harbour to the only world leader to be indicted by the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity.’

He added that if visas had been granted the leaders should be arrested.

Barletta said that given the US had ‘numerous agreements with President Guelleh that position him as an American ally…he should act like one – not simply as a landlord for our military based there.’

‘It is time also for the United States to express its outrage at ongoing human rights abuses,’ he wrote, adding that the State Department’s own human rights report on Djibouti had confirmed these violations.

He then raised the issue of Beijing’s growing presence in the country, adding ‘my voice to the growing list of congressional members expressing concerns over China’s purchase of influence in Djibouti.’

Barletta wrote, ‘It should be seen as unacceptable that the very day after you visited Djibouti and met with President Guelleh, he granted China the right to build military facilities housing 10,000 personnel.

‘This is a challenge to our technology and should come as no surprise that President Guelleh has repeatedly demonstrated that access and influence come with the construction of airports, railways and a modernised port.’

In their letter to Secretary of State Kerry, Congressmen Bill Huizenga and David Trott said, ‘We believe the US partnership with Djibouti is one that will continue to prove mutually beneficial for both nations.’

Therefore they urged him to ensure that Djibouti’s leadership ‘maintains…peaceful, stable and democratic progress.’

The Congressmen said the US should strongly urge President Guelleh and his government ‘to meaningfully address recommendations made by the African Union for improving the electoral process in the country…’

They urged the administration of President Barack Obama to ‘support advancing the rule of law, democracy and human rights and the freedom of all Djiboutians.’

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