Former Nigerian President: Why arrest Sudan’s Bashir who ‘has to fight a war to save his country?’

Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, left,with Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo (Jan. 2005 VOA file photo)
NSV - General Olusegun Obasango, the former Nigerian President asked the world to exercise caution in dealing with the indictment of the Sudanese president, in an interview to air on Aljazeera English tomorrow sent to NSV in advance.   

“We must be very careful about what we do in this world that we call a common village or a common home to all of us,” Obasango told Aljazeera’s David Frost, in response to a question on whether Nigeria can arrest Bashir if he turns up there. 

Drawing from his vast political and military experience he questioned the evidence the ICC has to implicate Bashir in the crimes of genocide committed in Darfur, calling him a ‘political leader’. 

“For what reason should a political leader who has to fight a war to save his country, be held responsible for the atrocities committed by the soldiers in the field, unless there is conclusive evidence that he [has] given instruction for those atrocities to be committed?” he said.   

“And of course if that is there, so be it, he must be held responsible for the instruction that he has given which [has] led to genocide.”   

The African Union, of which Obasanjo was once its chairman and the Arab League all oppose the recent issuance of the arrest warrant against President Bashir by ICC, saying it’s not in the interest of peace in the country. 

But we all know that the situation in war is not a picnic situation.

And therefore… I fought for Nigerian Civil War when General Gowan was a political leader, we were all given a code of conduct, the way our soldiers should behave in the warfront.

 If any of them was found not to have acted according to that code of conduct, should General Gowan in Lagos be arrested or shall I in Port Harcourt be arrested?  Who should?  For what has happened in Iraq by the American soldiers? 

Who in Washington should be arrested?  I wonder.  Are these arrests criminal arrests or political arrests that have been recommended and if they are political arrests to satisfy whom? And we must watch what we do and what we allow to do.  When I was President of Nigeria, I supported ICC but I supported ICC – we signed - because we believe that it can serve some good for the world. 

I wonder today whether we have taken the right decision in supporting ICC because some of what I have personally seen, smack of more of politics than criminality and if ICC continues along that line, its repetition will be costly, endangered and undermined.

*The full interview airs on Friday 20th at 1900gmt on Aljazeera English. 

More Articles By This Author