PARLIAMENT- Members of Parliament have poked holes in a statement presented by the Attorney General William Byaruhanga on the status of Uganda’s membership in the International Criminal Court.
The legislators described the statement, which presented the country’s stand as being both agreeable with African Union’s anti-ICC directive and supportive of ICC.
They said on Tuesday that the statement is neither-here-nor-there and simply the government’s future plan for the ICC.
“The African Union made a decision of none cooperation. What do you mean when you say that as a country we abide by the decision of non-cooperation but we are still in the court?” asked Kira Municipality MP, Ibrahim Ssemuju Nganda. “Just tell this Parliament if we are still interested in being in the court or not.”
In making the statement, Mr Byaruhanga was responding to inquiry MPs made on the matter before the House went on recess. The MPs wanted to know Uganda’s stand in the wake of various comments by the President against the international court.
“Government of Uganda has not notified anyone that we were going to withdraw from the ICC. The allegation is based on conjecture,” Mr Byaruhanga said adding, however, that government has reservation on how the court has related with Africa since 2009 especially the one-size-fits-all approach which he described as “not helpful.”
He added: “Uganda has not yet decided to withdraw from the ICC and continues to cooperate with it. While Uganda shall continue to be part of the ICC and cooperate with it, it shall not hesitate to abide by any position(s) reached by the African Union in pursuit of peace and stability on the continent.”
Mbale Municipality MP, Wamanga Wamai, saw that as confusing.
“What is Uganda’s position? Are we withdrawing or not? The position of the Attorney General is now confusing us who go for international conferences and have been giving the position that we stand with AU,” he said.
Busia Municipality MP, Geoffrey Macho, said the statement left him “more confused” than when he left home.
“I see there is no political goodwill towards the ICC. We speak this in Uganda and we speak differently outside Uganda. Let’s tell Ugandans whether we support ICC or we go with the African Union.
Uganda as a country must decide. What Al Bashir did to his people and they are on record in Darfur, we shouldn’t have pretended and let him go free,” he said.
Despite their views about the statement, the legislators used the opportunity to air their views on whether Uganda should stay or opt out of the ICC.
“The statement makes me wonder what kind of statement must come from the AG of a country like Uganda. The matter of ICC is a matter of law.
We signed the Rome Statute as a country and we have not got out of it.
“He knows that we have a law that domesticated the ICC. I wonder why leaders in Uganda run around talking about ICC yet they know it is the best to be done. We are talking about impunity where leaders of Africa step on dead bodies to come to power,” said Dokolo South MP Felix Okot Ogong.
He said: “The president should not talk too much against the ICC. He needs to tone down. If we don’t want impunity, let’s stay in ICC.”
Masaka Municipality MP, Mathias Mpuuga, said the statement does not even show that Uganda is being cooperative with the ICC.
“This is simply a leading statement because it provides a peek into the intentions of Government. It is not even true that you are cooperating because you could have arrested Bashir (when he visited to attend President Museveni’s Swearing-in ceremony).
“We need to remain in ICC. Even if we signed out, it wouldn’t stop the perpetrators being apprehended. The Attorney General has a duty to educate his colleagues in the cabinet about the importance of this court. We need an international umbrella to stop impunity,” he said.
The AG, however, stood his ground saying that his statement was clearer than crystal about where government stands.
“My statement was clear. We are there. I have already said we are cooperating with the ICC… what we are telling the ICC is that let the circumstances (informing who is taken to ICC) be across the board,” he said.
Pressed by MP to state the exact government position on whether it’s going to leave or stay in the ICC, his response was succinct— “whether we stay or go is an on-going debate in government.”