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Kibaki in Uganda but Bashir skips fete

KAMPALA, Uganda, May 12 – President Mwai Kibaki is in Kampala, Uganda to attend the swearing-in and inauguration ceremony of the President-elect of the Republic of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

The plane carrying President Kibaki and his entourage touched down Entebbe International Airport before 5pm on Wednesday.

On arrival President Kibaki was received by senior officials of the Ugandan Government, Kenya\’s High Commissions staffs to Uganda led by the High Commissioner Major Gen (Rtd) Geoffrey Lukale Okanga.

Later the President inspected a guard of honour mounted by a detachment of Uganda Defence Forces before being entertained by troupes of traditional dancers and choirs.

The swearing-in and inauguration ceremony will be held at Kololo Ceremonial Ground in Kampala on Thursday.

Sudan\’s President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, will however not attend the inauguration.

Mr Bashir is the first sitting head of state to be targeted by an ICC arrest warrant, issued on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan\’s western region of Darfur.

The ICC\’s Rome Statute dictates that member countries like Uganda should arrest him if he visits, and rights groups say the failure of several African states to do so has undermined the court.

Mr Bashir was invited earlier this week to attend Thursday\’s swearing-in of Mr Museveni, who won a new term as Ugandan president in February polls, according to Sudan\’s official SUNA news agency.

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"Presidential advisor Ahmed Bilal will represent him," foreign ministry spokesman Khaled Mussa told AFP, adding that Bashir was unable to travel to Kampala "due to pre-commitments."

On Tuesday, several rights groups urged the Ugandan government to revoke the invitation, or arrest Mr Bashir and surrender him to the court if he visited the country.

"As a state party to the Rome Statute, Uganda has legal obligations to cooperate with the court, including by arresting and surrendering al-Bashir if he visits," the Coalition For The International Criminal Court said in a letter addressed to Mr Museveni.

"A principled stand by Uganda would send a strong signal to war victims from Darfur that their right to justice is being respected," the group added.

Two Ugandan rights groups denounced the failure of other African countries to honour their obligations to the court.

"This (invitation) by Uganda portrays a systematic trend by some African states that have failed to cooperate with the court," the Uganda Coalition on the ICC and Human Rights Watch-Uganda said in a joint statement.

Last week, Mr Bashir travelled to Djibouti, also for the inauguration of its re-elected leader, President Ismael Omar Guelleh. Last year, he was hosted by Kenya and Chad.  All three countries are state parties to the ICC.

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