SECURITY DESK - Al-Bashir and NCP against ICC and Sudan

Category: Writing aboard the Kenya Airways: A story on coming to Rwanda for the first time
Published on Friday, 06 March 2009 21:10
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Mariar Wuoi is a New Sudan Vision columnist
(Pittsburgh, USA) - The International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague has finally issued an arrest warrant that was clearly expected. Obviously, Mr. Al-Bashir is presumed innocent till proven otherwise and he is free to travel to The Hague and defend himself. The NCP hardliners are not helping their president’s situation by going after Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) providing food, medicine, shelter, and water to millions of Darfurians languishing in miserable conditions in camps across Darfur region. This reaction was a kneejerk one - and one that will only convince the international community that NCP security apparatus have a design in place to continue with their slow genocide. A core group of hardliners are convinced that utilizing the muscles of China, Russia, and a modern-day dictators’ club called African Union (AU), will be sufficient to thwart ICC’s effort to bring those culpable for atrocities in Darfur to justice. It wasn’t.


If the NCP learned to listen to the SPLM, they would not be in a situation they are in now. From the outset, the SPLM prodded the NCP leadership to deal with ICC in a legalistic manner. For reasons known to them, they were hysterical and embarked on a full diplomatic assault to force the invocation of Article 16 suspending ICC’s activities. Instead, they should have handed over Haroun and Ali Kushayb to the ICC because this would have gone a long way towards reassuring the international community that there is an element of cooperation coming from Khartoum. Even Arab countries cannot turn a blind eye to a series of blunders that characterized Khartoum’s reaction to the ICC. 

It is one thing to issue arrest warrants for low-level officials like Haroun and Kushayb and another thing altogether to go after a sitting president. Al-Bashir has the state’s resources and apparatus at his disposal to keep himself out of ICC for foreseeable future. Whether this is good for Sudan or not is a subject of intense debate in a variety of forums. Some Sudan specialists like Alex De Waal are on the record that the ICC decision will slow or even derail the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and interfere with ongoing efforts to reach peace in Darfur. Others believe that this is a decision based on ending impunity. Even those who express reservations about the ICC decision believe that impunity should be allowed to continue. So, there is a consensus that something ought to be done about bringing justice in Darfur. What people disagree on is the method that should be applied.

Some fears or concerns are misplaced. The NCP is led by a gang of hardliners that are ruthless and thrive when they have their back against the wall. This statement overestimates what they are capable of. The NCP gang is ruthless but not suicidal.

These are opportunists who are enriching themselves at the expense of vast majority of Sudanese. Our brothers in the north have gotten so used to being docile and exploited that they don’t recognize why those at the margin tend to rebel. 

The point is: the NPC will not do anything to restart war in the South while JEM is capable of raiding the Omdurman. Abrogating or taking measures that will render CPA impossible to implement will immediately force the South to declare independence, close North-South border, assume a war posture and if possible, arm and train the sons of Darfur. Within a reasonably short period of time, there might be a popular uprising in the North, Sudan’s Armed Forces (SAF) may not be able to withstand competent forces operating on two fronts, and political situation in Sudan may be untenable. These conditions may lead to the creation of a new political order whereby a new coalition made up of those at the margin and moderate Northerners runs the country. Instead of splitting into two – which is the likely outcome of the referendum – Sudan may probably have a chance to remain the largest country in Africa. 

For now at least, the country will be in a state of limbo. We have a fugitive president now preparing himself for a drawn-out fight against the international system. Mr. Al-Bashir is using the same stale line of pointing to the invisible hands out to bring the country to its knees. Sudanese have been told for a long time that their misfortunes have their genesis from external system. It runs from Zionism to western imperialism. One would not be surprised if they blame a razor cut on the West or Zionists. It has become the most reliable straw man. No one in the West or Israel came and advised the NCP security apparatus to recruit and arm the militia. It was the very people in Khartoum looting state coffers that deployed counterinsurgency on the cheap. After all, it proved very successful in the South. 

No one really knows what the outcome of the ICC decision will be. What is clear, however, is that Mr. Al-Bashir is a wanted man and will probably not carry out his duties such as representing the country in the international forum. We can expect that the NCP hardliners will try to use CPA and access for NGOs to IDPs in Darfur as a bargaining chip. This will not resolve the fundamental fact that the ICC decision is based on legal reasoning and not political considerations. At the end to the day, the ICC will not back down just because the NCP has undertaken cosmetic modifications to its behavior. As the rest of the world watches, so do millions of Sudanese who are silently hoping for the long awaited accountability.

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