WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S., European and Canadian officials walked out of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s inauguration in protest on Thursday after Sudan’s leader showed up despite facing arrest warrants and Museveni mocked the International Criminal Court, the State Department said.
Uganda is a party to the agreement that established the Hague, Netherlands-based court, which issued international arrest warrants in 2009 and 2010 against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir seeking his detention on charges of genocide.
State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told a news briefing in Washington that Museveni made disparaging remarks about the court to the audience.
“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,” Trudeau said.
“In response to President Bashir’s presence and President Museveni’s remarks, the United States delegation, along with representatives of the European Union countries and Canada, departed the inauguration ceremonies to demonstrate our objection.”
Museveni, 71, who has governed Uganda for 30 years, was re-elected to a fifth term as president in February, prompting opposition protests, clashes and dozens of arrests.
Uganda blocked social media sites and increased security ahead of the inauguration.
Bashir, who has ruled Sudan since a 1989 Islamist and army-backed coup, rejects the authority of the International Criminal Court and has flouted the warrant before, traveling in the Middle East and Africa as well as to China and Indonesia, which are not members of the court.
The court accuses Bashir of masterminding genocide and other atrocities in his campaign to crush a revolt in Sudan’s western Darfur region.
Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by James Dalgleish and Richard Chang
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