ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Sudan’s indicted leader Omar al-Bashir arrived Sunday in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, to a red-carpet welcome and a full guard of honor despite demands from human rights activists that Nigeria arrest him to face trial for genocide in Darfur.
Minister of Police Affairs Kenneth Olubolade was at the airport to meet the private presidential jet Sunday along with troops in ceremonial green and white uniforms and a military brass band.
“Nigeria has the shameful distinction of being the first West African country to welcome ICC fugitive Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
It said Nigeria’s welcome is “in stark contrast” to the stands taken by other African countries. Only Chad and Djibouti have received al-Bashir in the past year.
The Nigerian Coalition on the International Criminal Court said South Africa, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, and Central Africa Republic “have specifically made clear Bashir will be arrested on their territory, seen to it that other Sudanese officials visit instead of Bashir, relocated conferences or otherwise avoided his visits.”
The International Criminal Court in The Hague in 2009 indicted al-Bashir for genocide and war crimes committed in Darfur. He was the first sitting African head of state indicted by the court.
“Al-Bashir is sought on the gravest crimes committed in Darfur and Nigeria’s hosting is an affront to victims,” said Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program.
The African Union has urged its 53 member states not to cooperate with the ICC, a stand that Nigeria may cite as an excuse for allowing al-Bashir’s visit. No Nigerian officials could be reached for comment Sunday. President Goodluck Jonathan and all senior Cabinet ministers arrived home earlier Sunday from a week-long trip to China.
Al-Bashir is in Nigeria ostensibly to attend an African Union summit on health focusing on HIV and AIDS that is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
The Nigerian coalition on Sunday called on citizens to picket the summit to protest the presence of al-Bashir.
Coalition director Chino Obiagwu said they are preparing to go to court Monday to demand that Nigeria arrest the Sudanese leader, to fulfill its obligations as a member of the European-based court. Some Africans charge that the ICC is racist in targeting Africans.
Associated Press writer Michelle Faul contributed to this report from Lagos, Nigeria.