Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was in New York last week…

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was in New York last week, addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations. Speaking to heads of state on the second day of the Assembly, it was his second time to take the podium since he assumed the custodianship of the historically powerful and paternalistic Ethiopian state, gossip recalled.

Hailemariam spoke not only in his capacity as the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. He also talked on behalf of the 54 member states of the African Union (AU). Unlike successive generations of African leaders, he was lucky to be spared the task of discussing a continent in turmoil and conflict. Consequently, there was no need to appeal to the world for help.

Hailemariam portrayed a rather optimistic narrative ofAfrica’s renaissance being “around the corner”, due to improved peace and security, economic growth – largely due to the endowment in natural resources and a raising middle class. His address to the 68th General Assembly, where he declared the 21st Century as an “African Century”, came against the backdrop of a near miss diplomatic embarrassment to the nation he leads and the continent he represents, claims gossip.

Even theUnited States, the host nation of the Assembly, was about to enter an international diplomatic and law enforcement fiasco, had it not been for the good advice that came from Hailemariam, gossip disclosed.

Unusually, the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir approached the US Embassy inKhartoumto issue him a visitors’ visa, in order for him to travel toNew Yorkto address the General Assembly. Why not, considering that even the most ardent foes of the host nation, such as Iranian presidents and the bizarre late Ghadaffi, would frequently descend onNew Yorkjust to make their points clear?

The United States does this as a result of a bilateral agreement it signed with the UN in 1947, with an obligation to facilitate travel by a head of a member state to its headquarters in New York. The trouble was, however, that none of these leaders were indicted by the most feared International Criminal Court, aka the ICC.

Bashir is, arguably, a fugitive from the ICC, where prosecutors have accused him of genocide – allegedly committed inDarfur, in the mid-2000s. It was the Security Council of the UN itself that referred Bashir’s case to the ICC, in 2005, and urged all its member states and regions, as well as international organisations, to “cooperate fully” with the Court on the indictment of the Sudanese leader.

Granted, unlikeKenya’s Kenyatta, Bashir has not appeared before ICC judges to answer to 10 of the allegations levelled at him on crimes against humanity and genocide. Thus, his trail has not begun and it is impossible to prove or disprove his innocence. It would be unprecedented for theUnited Statesto deprive a visa to a leader of a nation whose guilt in committing international crime is out on the jury.  It could also have caused a constitutional crises to the UN Charter, according to gossip.

Had Bashir remained stubborn and travelled toNew York, Obama’s Administration would have been under international pressure to arrest and hand him over to the ICC, inthe Hague. This would have forced the current chairman of the African Union (AU) to stand in his defence. The ICC is a a controversial institution where 72 of the 193 member states of the UN are not signatories of the Rome Convention that established its statute. This includes theUnitedStateitself andEthiopia. The latter has a Prime Minister who publicly labelled the ICC as being bent on racism.

Hailemariam had to seek the help of former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, who is also AU’s special envoy, to resolve the dispute betweenSudanandSouth Sudan, gossip disclosed. Hailemariam quietly dispatched him toKhartoum, two weeks ago, to persuade Bashir to abandon his intention to travel toNew York. This was even after his foreign office denied reports by international media of a statement made by a UN spokesperson that Bashir had called his plan off, claims gossip.

Travel toNew York, Mbeki did, gossip disclosed. Subsequently, the debacle in diplomacy and international law has been averted, grace to appeals made by Hailemariam, coupled with the power of persuasion of South Africa’s intellectual politician-cum-peace negotiator, gossip claims.

Published on September 29, 2013 [ Vol 14 ,No 700]



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