Johannesburg – The mystery of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir’s whereabouts took another turn on Sunday evening, following earlier reports that he had left South Africa.
According to Bloomberg, having earlier reported on Sunday that the Sudanese president had left the country, al-Bashir has since been seen by reporters at the African Union summit taking place in Johannesburg.
The earlier report quoted Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman, who told Bloomberg over the phone that al-Bashir had left South Africa and was heading back to Khartoum.
“The president finished his business in South Africa and is coming back home,” Osman reportedly said.
“Al-Bashir went to South Africa with complete guarantees that it will respect the African position regarding the ICC.”
The issue of al-Bashir’s departure from South Africa takes place within the spectre of an order by the High Court in Pretoria made earlier on Sunday afternoon, compelling South African authorities to not allow the Sudanese president to leave the country.
Earlier on Sunday evening, the justice department said it was preparing for expected arguments in the High Court in Pretoria on Monday, following reports of al-Bashir departure from South Africa.
“We are preparing for arguments in court tomorrow [Monday] and have not verified media reports of his leaving the country. Therefore question of contempt of court does not arise at this stage,” department spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said in a text message.
Judge Hans Fabricius had ordered that the home affairs department ensure that all points of entry and exit be informed that al-Bashir is not allowed to leave until the SA Litigation Centre’s (SALC) application that South Africa arrest him is concluded.
Following Fabricius’ order, Mhaga said South Africa would take reasonable steps to ensure that officials at all points of entry and exit were told of the court order.
“In so far is practically possible reasonable steps will be taken to comply with the interim order given the fact that we will now be preparing our arguments for the main argument tomorrow on the substantive issues,” he said outside court.
The SALC had applied for South Africa to enforce two warrants for al-Bashir’s arrest issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2009 and 2010 relating to alleged war crimes and genocide. It said that on Saturday the ICC ruled that diplomatic immunity did not apply to heads of state wanted for trial and issued a plea to South Africa to arrest him to stand trial.
The application started after 11:00 on Sunday with officials hastily brought to court in Pretoria, but the government said it was not ready because of the short notice, having received papers at around 10:30.
It asked for an adjournment, but the SALC, fearing that al-Bashir would leave in the meantime, obtained an interim order preventing his departure.