Posts Tagged ‘Osama bin Laden’

Trump madness

January 29, 2017

When we lived in Sudan, we lived a couple of hundred metres from the mosque where Osama bin Laden used to go and worship.

In the 1990s.

He wasn’t actually there when we lived there.

In fact, I’m really hard-pressed to find anything that Sudan has actually done against the United States in – what? – the last 20 years. (Remember, when Osama bin Laden orchestrated the 9-11 attacks, he wasn’t actually living in Sudan and had only limited contact with his former home, his erstwhile sponsor Hassan al-Turabi, being something as a persona non grata with the Khartoum regime at the time.)

So why, then, this Sudan visa ban from the current megalomaniac in the White House?

I’m actually kind of hard-pressed to find any logical rationale to the current action from Donald Trump, other than shameless populism and a bloody-minded determination to live up to his electoral promises (which I had, unfortunately and a trifle naively, dismissed as simple electioneering; err… no, he is actually as crazy as he sounded).

Nothing really makes sense, and Donald Trump is acting far too hastily with his executive orders, and without proper guidance. You only have to look how quickly the courts overturned the visa ban – at least temporarily – to see this.

But anyone following Trump closely knows all of this – or if they don’t they are being disingenuous.

I want to make a point here that is slightly more nuanced.

There is a very good case to be made for an overhaul of immigration regimes in Europe and US. Even if you are not a right-wing fascist nutter, there is a case to be made here; and I have made it in previous entries.

But now is most definitely not the time to be making it. The likes of Donald Trump and UKIP leader Nigel Farrage have been riding on the tides of populism for two long, without the benefit of proper rational analysis.

This took the UK out of Europe – which may in fact turn out to be a good thing, but not for the reasons that the likes of Nigel Farrage so often espoused – but I now fear that populism is taking a far more sinister turn.

How did Donald Trump put it? “It’s time to fight fire with fire”.

Indeed it is. And that means being unreservedly pro-immigration. Irrespective of the consequences.

We have for a long time needed a proper immigration policy in place. And we still do.

But to argue for one now is to play into the hands of those privileged populists that seek to make political mileage out of the strife and suffering of others.

Just don’t plant a bomb, Dear Immigrant: that’s not very nice.

Bashir’s holiday plans

October 27, 2009

I wonder where Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir likes to go on holiday.

When Osama bin Laden, America’s most-wanted man, lived in Sudan in the 1990s, he is rumoured to have favoured trips to the northern deserts.

A new book written by his estranged wife – Living With Osama Bin Laden – suggests that he used such excursions as training exercises for his boys, to toughen them up for when the Jihad against the Western infidels eventually began. They were forced to sleep in trenches without covers, that kind of thing.

I don’t think that Osama ever entertained the notion of booking his family on a trip to Disney World in Florida.

Al-Bashir must face a similar dilema. After all, it’s hard being a wanted man. Of course, it would be rather hard for him to justify to his bodyguards a trip to Europe. So that’s kind of off-limits.

But one would think a quick sojourn in an African nation would not be off the cards.

After all, the African Union have all rallied together and, worried about one of their own being tried in The Hague (setting a dangerous precedent for other renegade African leaders) have refused to support the International Criminal Court’s indictment. This week (or perhaps early next week) the AU will come out with a new report, recommending that local courts – possibly with some foreign support – try Sudanese war crimes suspects instead. Somehow can’t see that working.

But this presents something of a problem for AU nations, such as Uganda, who are not only a signed-up member of the ICC but also a member of the AU. Uganda’s situation is particular interesting, since they are hosting a conference next year that will look at updating the ICC’s mandate.

ICC members are obliged, under the Rome Statute, to take reasonable steps to arrest court indictees should they fall with their jurisdiction. But, in contradiction of this, the AU is telling members to grant Bashir free passage across the continent.

It’s a tricky one.

A couple of months ago, Ugandan officials – who were subsequently reprimanded by President Yoweri Museveni – made unsettling noises about needing to arrest Al-Bashir if he set foot in the country. He had, at that point, been sent an official invitation to attend a conference there. He subsequently declined.

A couple of weeks ago, he declined a separate invitation from Uganda to attend a conference on African refugees.

This follows on from a previous invitation to visit South Africa, which Bashir also declined.

Then, this week, Bashir announced that he would not be attending the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, to be held in Nigeria.

Most other leaders, who were invited, have been able to attend these events.

Which made me wonder about my initial question: where, exactly, does Bashir go on holiday? I’m thinking probably the north desert, or maybe he pops over to Saudi Arabia or Yemen from time to time. Egypt might be another idea, though they can be a trifle unpredictable there.

Ironically, one of the places that Al-Bashir would be able to escape the court’s reach is America. Since Washington never signed up to the Rome Statute, they are under no international obligation to arrest any indictee that seeks entry to the country.

How nuts is that.

Al-Qaeda in Sudan

October 13, 2008

I find it deliciously amusing to select Ozone as a venue to meet a contact to discuss al-Qaeda in Sudan, given the recent terrorist warning released by the US embassy.

There’s a great deal of talk about a large and growing presence of al-Qaeda among the sand dunes and dusty streets of northern Sudan. Commentators are, of course, quick to point out that one of the most infamous Islamic terrorists – Osama bin Laden – once called Sudan his home, and made a lot of money out of the country, until he was politely asked to leave by a regime that feared incurring the wrath of the West.

Twelve years since he left, the US has yet to remove Sudan from its list of countries that sponsor terrorism. They removed North Korea from this list the other day, and Sudan had been holding out hopes that they would also be removed.

Which is why they are pretty cheesed off with the latest US statement, implying that the regime is still harbouring terrorist groups that are determined to hit Western interests. Sounding rather exasperated on the phone, Ali al-Sadiq, foreign office press spokesman, told me that the latest terrorist group (“Al-Qaeda in the land of the two Niles”, birthdate: circa October 2) was little more than a few odd bods distributing leaflets, and using the John Granville trial as an opportunity to get noticed.

Guess what? It worked.

Having spent a rather frustrating day searching for al-Qaeda entities in Sudan – not an easy job for the best of us – I feel myself inclined to agree with al-Sadiq. One of the reasons it is so hard to write anything about the wave of extremism sweeping through Sudan right now (and some of the press coverage I’m receiving now is confused, misleading, and woefully incomplete) is that it doesn’t actually exist.

Obviously, al-Qaeda has a few random sympathisers dotted around here and there, but they’re more boys from the hood than any serious force. Constantly shifting guises and agendas. Out there somewhere but impossible to pin down.