A huge, unnecessary mistake

I must switch continents for the moment, for the International Criminal Court (ICC) has just done the inevitable and issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Bashir.

For the record, I was against issuing an arrest warrant for the President right from the moment that it was mentioned (you can trawl through past entries of this blog to see that). Not because I condone what Bashir has done – genocide is taking place in Darfur, that is for certain, and the President has most likely had a hand in inflaming the fighting – but because the decision was poorly thought out and made for purely political reasons. These stupid Westerners that support the ICC’s decision, and have been pushing for it, are going to rue this day.

Everyone now seems to be talking about the threat to aid workers and Western organisations. Many UN workers and other expats left Sudan last summer, when the initial ICC ruling came out. More may now leave. Or they may be hounded out of the country by an aggrieved president. That may happen. But it will be only the beginning of the troubles.

What the international community stupidly presumed was that there was actually popular support for the arrest warrant among Bashir’s own people. But I lived in the country for over a year, and I can now say that this was a terrible misjudgement (read the first paragraph of this blog to get a sense of typical Sudanese feeling about the ruling). Even southern politicians are to be heard criticising the attempts to haul President Bashir before the Hague. Of course, a large number also agree that Bashir should be brought down – his erstwhile friend Hassan al-TurabiĀ  (now in opposition) even suggested it would be a bad idea. But he’s a little mad. A martial arts expert tried to assassinate him with a karate chop to the head in Canada in 1992. He was in a coma for weeks. True story.

But the overriding sentiment that courses through the blood of the Sudanese is that the ICC indictment is not purely an attack on President Bashir, it is an attack on them. From a predominantly Western organisation, of which they are not signatories. It smacks of 21st century imperialism.

The other point is President Bashir and his cronies are not the only ones guilty of genocide in Sudan (whether Bashir is directly guilty of genocide, I have no proof – one presumes that the ICC does – because it is notoriously difficult to prove a direct link between a country’s leader and what goes on in the ground). The situation in Darfur is phenomenally complex, as anyone who has studied it will tell you. It has as much to do with tribal rivalry as it does with the government. Khartoum has just been fanning the flames that already existed. And if you are going to prosecute President Bashir, prosecute the rebel leaders that also have blood on their hands. I don’t care if they are in opposition. Many of them are just as guilty.

Finally, and herein lies the rub which is being ignored by many commentators at the moment, the ICC have now, with their one ill-conceived attempt at justice, undercut the not insignificant amount of influence that the international community currently enjoys in Sudan. Forget all the politicking in the newspapers – the American Embassy practically lives inside the Presidential Palace (I don’t mean this literally, of course, just that they do talk to the government more than they let on).

Free and fair elections this year?

Forget it. What limited chance there was has gone. Does anyone really think President Bashir is now going to relinquish his hold on the country with the arrest warrant hanging over his head?

Kenya 2007 anyone?

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2 Responses to “A huge, unnecessary mistake”

  1. Mimz Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. A bad mistake that came at an even worse timing; just before the elections that the Sudanese people have been waiting for for over two decades and their only hope for a better Sudan.

    Not only did the ICC’s decision disturb all kinds of relationships between Sudan and western organizations, but it also compromised the CPA and it is feared that situations will get even worse as the government and the opposition will now have more conflict between them.

    Just like you said, El-Bashir will never relinquish his power even if this means that Sudan will remain politically isolated.

    The problem is people who are not living in Sudan do not understand the magnitude of this decision. People need to differentiate between what is considered justice and what is the right thing to do at this very time, for the people of the South and the North– and no one argues that El-Bashir didn’t have it coming, it’s just that there were other considerations that were supposed to be in play and the ICC completely disregarded them.

  2. Eu Says:

    Spot on.

    The objective of the indictment is regime change and sabotaging the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

    As a Sudanese I reserve the right to choose my country’s political destiny without external stipulation.

    There’s a trend in developing countries for the incumbent to win elections (Mexico, Nigeria amongst others).

    I suspect that the powers that be could not accept the idea of Bashir winning the upcoming elections so they’ve used the ICC to taint him.

    By the way I wouldn’t have / won’t vote for him.

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