This could cause serious problems for everybody in Sudan.
Judges at the International Criminal Court ordered the arrest on Wednesday of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, charging him with war crimes and crimes against humanity for a concerted government campaign against civilians in the Darfur region. They did not charge him with genocide, denying the request by the prosecutor.
Why is this bad?
Optimists claim Bashir could be internally weakened politically because of the indictment. Eventually, he will become too much of a load on a country already experiencing troubles because of the declining oil market.
On the other hand, given the incredible pile of corpses that constitute his record, Bashir could do a lot of things to vulnerable elements in Sudan (from what few aid workers remain to even going after the Southern Sudanese earlier than 2011) since he feels he has nothing to lose.
However, Bashir is not an all powerful dictator (nor is Mugabe, though some may blindly believe just removing him will fix many of Zimbabwe’s problems). There are competing elements in the Sudanese regime that have different visions of Sudan’s present and its future. The ICG observes that:
There are also internal NCP constraints. In addition to divisions on strategy, powerful figures within the NCP and in the top ranks of the Sudan Armed Forces have grown wealthy from economic investment in Sudan, and will be keen to ensure that such investment is not driven away by a violent over-reaction to the indictment.
Sudan’s international allies have a strong interest in the country’s stability, and they too must pressure the regime to react with restraint. In particular, China, with its very significant stake in the oil industry, Egypt with its interest in regional stability and access to the Nile waters, and Gulf states with big economic investments in the country should push Sudan not to lash out.
The Obama Administration should be considering what it can say and do with China and other partners to offer these elements within Sudan options besides staying the course with Bashir. The costs of diplomatic inaction could be considerably high if this indictment creates a maelstrom of violent consequences.
It should also strenuously oppose the efforts by apologists for Bashir and others like him in the African Union and Arab League who want the UN Security Council to suspend the indictment. A reversal of such magnifications would likely hobble the ICC for years to come, in an era where war criminal leaders will continue to hold sway over their victims and spread instability and disaster where ever they misrule.
When or if Bashir is sent to the ICC, few will mourn his fate. A tenuous precedent will have been created with promising and dangerous implications. Building on the promising element of those implications while girding for the dangerous aftershocks would be a wise policy choice.
The peacekeeping facade that all too often allows conflicts and oppressive military campaigns to continue indefinitely may be coming to a head in its most recent iteration (Somalia having fallen apart) in Sudan’s Darfur region.
The Sudanese military intends to take a rebel-held town (packed with anywhere from 30-50,000 civilians) and has begun bombing the outskirts of it. They have ordered UN peacekeepers from the town, though they have thus far refused to comply.
It would be best for the Sudanese regime to call the UN’s bluff and ravage the town, showing the empty promises of the UN peacekeeping mission there and ending the charade once and for all that the UN or AU is serious about ending violence there. Poorly funded, inadequately manned and without a mandate that is potent enough to end the fighting one way or another, the mission instead allows rebels (who are fighting a tyrannical regime dripping with the blood of millions) to hide behind peacekeepers and prolong disastrous fighting that only creates more refugees and inflicts more casualties on them.
In harsh economic times where aid budgets are being cut, peacekeeping missions are being pressured to wind down early and the appetite among donors for taking on new responsibilities has been subsumed in local concerns, an opportunity exists for new ideas, tactics and strategies to be explored and pursued to protect endangered populations.
Archaic failures created out of a sense of guilt and keeping up appearances such as the UN/AU mission in Darfur should be shuttered. If the Sudanese are willing to maim and kill ever more civilians to force the empty hand of the UN/AU, then so be it.
End this sick joke played on the victims of the Sudanese regime.
*Meanwhile, African leaders continue to prove why they are simply not serious about ending the type of slaughter Sudan specializes in, giving their support to Sudan’s dictator, Omar al-Bashir, who is currently facing war crimes indictments at the ICC. Their excuse is that the ICC is picking on Africans when it comes to war crimes trials.
The 2006 Winter Olympics were a disaster for the USA. Our team acted out petty jealousies, failed to live up to even reasonable expectations and all around embarrassed America even more than Jimmy Carter or George Bush usually do. Joey Cheek ignored the miscreants and won a gold and silver medal in speed-skating, then used his 15 seconds of fame and glory and his $40K winnings to advocate for the victims of Dar Fur. He single-handedly transformed a disaster for the US Olympic Committee into a PR bonanza of international goodwill.
Cheek makes the mistake of pursuing his own foreign policy. He is the president of Team Darfur, an organization of Olympic athletes (including a few who have been overtly pressured by China to drop their involvement) who use their fleeting stardom to remind their fellow citizens and competitors that the tragedies of Dar Fur and elsewhere only happen when people avert their gaze and stay silent. Cheek’s organization practices patient, calibrated pressure on China over their support for the regime responsible for the Dar Fur chaos, a strategy that has worked over the years more than loud, obnoxious anti-China bashing. Cheek understands that China’s people should be treated with respect but the regime reminded of its growing responsibilities as an international stakeholder. Cheek had consciously implored his Team Darfur members to lay low about Dar Fur at the Olympics while offering insightful commentary on the matter if and when asked by media or other competitors.
In a sign that it still has much to learn, China’s pathetic paranoia induced them to revoke Cheek’s visa. Cheek should not be viewed as a threat to China, but a partner, a member of a more mature human rights campaign that takes a long view towards international relations and the power of informed, patient activism. China also has been leaning on other countries’ Olympic Committees, leading to some Team Darfur members calling to ask to be dropped from the organization because of the Chinese-originated pressure from their Olympic committees.
The USOC rewarded Cheek’s efforts yesterday by throwing him under the bus, Obama-style, when the Chinese despots revoked his visa, preventing him from attending the Beijing Olympics. They didn’t stick up for their savior from two years ago, meekly characterizing it as a private matter between Cheek and the Chinese despots. No support for their old champion. This follows USA Basketball pressuring its superstars to shut up about Dar Fur (Kobe Byrant and LeBron James have both filmed PSAs advocating steps to end the Dar Fur violence).
Once again, for the spineless whelps like the USOC leaders, Google and Yahoo! owners, etc who make apologies for and overlook the abuses of the Chinese regime…. when the President or House Speaker ignore Chinese abuses, they do so out of a respect for national security, leveraging and balancing issues of differing importance to America’s most important security and economic relationship. When you do it, its for a few extra bucks or less stressful socializing… a reason that does not measure up to the moral compromises you make.
China’s actions are at least understandable, whereas the USOC has no such ground to stand on in defense of its actions. It displayed craven cowardice, failing to stand up for a member that gave his country a rare reason to cheer in 2006 and who has conducted himself with the best interests of America in mind ever since. Worse, pressuring participating athletes to hush about sensitive topics smacks of a subservient attitude in a competition of iron wills and national pride.
To hell with the USOC leadership responsible for this disgrace and censorship. What the hell happened to national pride and free speech? What happened to representing America? Most Americans would want nothing to do with suppressing criticism of policies that lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands.