Political bullshit

So, as of last week, there is a new ceasefire agreement. President Omar al-Bashir courteously informed a conference on Darfur, which he had convened, that government armed troops would not be killing any more people in the region – not that they had been acting entirely without provocation, as the government keeps reminding us.

Unfortunately, though, the ceasefire agreement is very much a unilateral one. The rebels were not at the conference (probably understandably, given that the government has issued arrest warrants for many of them) and the largest rebel group in the region, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), pooh-poohed any idea of a ceasefire, most likely because ending the hostilities is not the best way to get themselves noticed.

But it is the best way for Bashir to get noticed – or so he hopes. He still has this annoying ICC thing hanging over his head, and Ocambo, the top ICC prosecutor, could at any moment come up with enough evidence to have the conviction go through. Something that a lot of people at the UN would be happy about. It would prove, at the very least, that the ICC process is working – which has been in much doubt in recent years.

It’s pretty transparent why Bashir might decide to announce a unilateral ceasefire now. If he could show that he is taking concerted efforts to repair some of the damage that his regime has done, it would be pretty mean-spirited of the international community not to recognise this and to press ahead with the convictions any way.

But the proof of the pudding must, of course, be in the eating. Someone I met at a social bash the other day described the whole affair as “political bullshit”. There’s no doubt that the announcement was made for political reasons, but to describe it as insubstantial and worthless is dangerous.

I didn’t at the time agree with the ICC ruling, and I still have doubts. However, one of the driving forces behind it may have been to push Khartoum into making peace with his enemies and ending the war and the suffering in the country. Of course, a lot of people in the international community would happily see Bashir swing, but if the idea behind the ICC was to put pressure on the government, but not necessarily to convict the leader, then it seems to be working.

Of course, it remains to be seen how sincere Bashir’s efforts are going to be. But Bashir is clearly worried about the ruling – and knows that he should do something to put paid to the ICC conviction.

One only hopes that, if Bashir’s efforts turn out to be genuine, the international community will have the good sense to recognise them.


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