A US delegation sent to attend Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s inauguration on Thursday stormed out of Kololo independence grounds in protest before the end of the ceremony.
This was revealed by Elizabeth Trudeau, the Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing Washington, DC saying it happened after Museveni launched an attack on International Criminal Court [ICC].
While introducing Sudan president Omar al-Bashir, Museveni called ICC a bunch of useless people and also attacked the West for criticising his government.
State Department spokeswoman Trudeau said U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac and a visiting Washington-based official, along with several European and Canadian diplomats, abruptly left the inauguration after Museveni’s remarks.
US had also objected to Bashir’s participation in the inauguration since he is wanted by ICC for war crimes in Darfur.
Trudeau described Museveni’s comments as “insulting” to both the court and to victims of war crimes and genocide.
“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, particularly when his country has committed to accountability as a state party to the Rome Statute that established the court,” she said.
She said in any case had attended the event out of respect for U.S-Ugandan bilateral relations.
MS TRUDEAU: So the United States has made its position with respect to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s travel very clear. We’re concerned that President Bashir has been able to travel to Uganda as well as Djibouti in the past.
In Kampala, President Museveni made disparaging remarks about the ICC in front of attendees, including other heads of state. 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.
We believe that walking out in protest in an appropriate reaction to a head of state mocking efforts to ensure accountability for victims of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, particularly when his country has committed to accountability as a state party to the Rome Statute. While the United States is not a party to the Rome Statute, which is a treaty that established the ICC, we strongly support the ICC’s efforts to hold accountable those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Darfur.
QUESTION: Prior to the actual inauguration, was there any contact between the U.S. and the – the U.S. and Ugandan governments about the appropriateness of President Bashir attending?
MS TRUDEAU: When U.S. officials who were present at the ceremony learned of President Bashir’s arrival, we relayed our concerns immediately to the Ugandan prime minister and foreign minister in light of President Bashir’s status as the subject of ICC arrest warrants for genocide and other atrocity crimes in Darfur.
QUESTION: And did – I mean, I’m not – was the decision made that it was – even though he did arrive, they didn’t – basically they ignored your complaint and presumably the complaint of – complaints of Europeans. But why did they even then go to the ceremony if President Bashir was going to be —
MS TRUDEAU: So Uganda is – we do have bilateral ties with Uganda. However, they found that President Museveni’s comments about the ICC with President Bashir there – the two issues together. And —
QUESTION: So – but they went, so – they obviously went, because they walked out.
MS TRUDEAU: They did, they did.
QUESTION: But why was it appropriate for them to even go in the first place if your concerns about President Bashir were ignored?
MS TRUDEAU: So considering our bilateral ties with Uganda – it was the presidential inauguration – we did make our concerns known. However, when President Museveni did make those comments, we found it appropriate to leave.
QUESTION: Okay, but I mean – so, first of all, who was the U.S. delegation? Was that —
MS TRUDEAU: It was Ambassador Malac as well as our Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bruce Wharton.
QUESTION: So there was someone from Washington.
MS TRUDEAU: Washington, yes, there was.
QUESTION: But here’s what – I mean, why is it okay to sit in the VIP section with President Bashir, or wherever it was they were – why is that okay or it was deemed to be okay and then it was only when President Museveni made his comments that – against the ICC that it was determined that they shouldn’t —
MS TRUDEAU: And consistent with our bilateral relationship with Uganda, we did feel it was appropriate to attend. What we found is what happened with President Museveni’s comments as well as the presence of President Bashir.
QUESTION: My question is: Why is it – why is it only appropriate to walk out if the – if President – when President Museveni makes comments, when they were perfectly happy to —
MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. I’d refer you to President Museveni’s comments, as we mentioned, mocking the —
QUESTION: Yeah. And I can understand why they would walk out if that happened. What I don’t understand is why they were there in the first place after the Ugandan Government ignored your concerns about President Bashir being there in the first place and President Bashir showed up and participated or attended.
MS TRUDEAU: Again, it was a bilateral decision to attend the inauguration of an important U.S. partner.
QUESTION: Your decision to walk out was a function of dismay at Museveni’s comments about the ICC or Bashir’s presence or both?
QUESTION: Okay, so it’s both. And then secondly, was there – I know you said that as soon as you learned of his presence at the ceremony – do you mean, like, that he had actually shown up at the ceremony, or rather —
MS TRUDEAU: So it was after President Museveni’s comments that our delegation left, as well as other delegations.
MS TRUDEAU: As soon as we learned about his [Bashir] planned travel and his presence, we did raise our concerns with the –We raised our concerns with both the prime minister and the Ugandan foreign minister. I’m not sure if it was a demarche or —
QUESTION: And following on that, apart from your concern about President Bashir presence and the Ugandan president comments, are you concerned also about the fact that the Ugandan president is starting his fifth term as president?
MS TRUDEAU: So the United States and Uganda have a longstanding and strong partnership. We are concerned the Ugandan Government’s recent actions could endanger the economic and political process that has allowed our strong bilateral relationship to grow. We do urge the government to take steps to reverse this troubling trend.