Sudan president again defies ICC with Zimbabwe trip

KHARTOUM – Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir travelled to Zimbabwe on Saturday in defiance of an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC), state media reported.

Bashir has already travelled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Libya since the warrant was issued in March for alleged crimes against humanity in Sudan’s conflict-ridden Darfur region.

Like Bashir, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has had a stormy relationship with the West. Western donors blame him for economic turmoil in Zimbabwe and have called for broad reforms.

"(Bashir) left to Zimbabwe to take part in the activities of the third summit meeting of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) states" the SUNA state news agency reported.

The trip will be Bashir’s first visit to the southern African country officials told Reuters this week. Bashir has only been visiting countries that are not members of the court.

Darfur’s insurgency began in 2003 with rebels claiming neglect by central government. Khartoum quickly tried to quash the now much-divided rebels with troops and allied militias.

The United Nations has said as many as 300,000 people may have been killed. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.

COMESA launched Africa’s first free trade area in 2000 and has 19 members. SUNA said economic integration, security and value added-tax would be discussed at the Zimbabwe meeting.