SUDAN WATCH: David Blair is back reporting on Sudan! Oyeee! If peace comes to Darfur, thank Messrs Ocampa and Bashir with a joint Nobel Peace Prize (I'm serious!)

Friday, November 14, 2008

David Blair is back reporting on Sudan! Oyeee! If peace comes to Darfur, thank Messrs Ocampa and Bashir with a joint Nobel Peace Prize (I'm serious!)

Historic stuff has been happening in Sudan over the past few months. More later. Watch this space. Sudan Watch can now be delivered by email or to a news reader via an Atom feed. See top corner of sidebar here on the right.

It's great to see the Telegraph's Africa Correspondent David Blair back to reporting on Sudan. I've missed his reports. Perhaps the hiatus was due to his move from Johannesburg to London. Welcome to England David (if you're still here!) now that we're in recession and it's been pouring with rain. Heh.

November 14, 2008 Telegraph UK report by David Blair - If peace comes to Darfur, thank the International Criminal Court :
When Sudan's military dictator declared a unilateral ceasefire in Darfur this week, he was conducting the biggest plea bargain in history. President Omar al-Bashir, who seized power in a coup in 1989 and leads one of Africa's most ruthless regimes, did not try to halt Darfur's bloodshed out of the kindness of his heart. On the contrary, for the past five years, his armed forces and their associated militias, popularly known as the janjaweed or "devils on horseback", have pillaged villages at will, waging a ruthless war that has claimed some 300,000 lives, either from violence, starvation or disease.

Instead, Mr Bashir called the ceasefire because he faces a little legal difficulty. In July, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, asked for Sudan's leader to be formally charged with three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes.

At present, the ICC's "pre-trial chamber" is considering this request. So far, Mr Bashir has not been formally charged and no arrest warrant exists in his name. But this could change quite soon. Early next year, the judges will probably decide whether to uphold Mr Moreno-Ocampo's accusations.

If they go ahead and formally charge Mr Bashir, he will achieve the unenviable status of being the only head of state in the world to face criminal proceedings at the ICC. All this has deeply wounded Mr Bashir's dignity. He knows that if he is formally charged - and particularly if the three counts of genocide are upheld - he will carry the mark of Cain.

So he needs a way out and, fortunately for Mr Bashir, the founders of the ICC have unwittingly given him a loophole. Under Article 16 of the Rome Statute, which established the court in 2002, the United Nations Security Council can vote to defer legal action against any individual.

If Mr Bashir is charged, he could ask the Security Council to let him off the legal hook. Of the five permanent members, China is a close ally of Sudan. Beijing gets about 10 per cent of its imported oil from Sudan and has invested billions in the country's energy reserves.

Russia has no oil interests in Sudan, but it has sold Mr Bashir plenty of weapons over the years. The fearsome MI-24 helicopter gunships, which Sudan's air force has employed to level villages in Darfur, were made in Russia.

So Mr Bashir can probably count on two votes in the Security Council. But he still needs the support of Britain, America and France to be sure of an "Article 16 deferral".

In public, all three countries have said precious little about their position on this vital question. Privately, they are using the possibility of a deferral as much needed leverage over Sudan's regime.

For once, Mr Bashir needs their votes - and so he must make concessions. Hence the declaration of a ceasefire this week.

The dictator's predicament may also explain why Sudan has quietly locked up Ali Kushayb, a notorious militia leader who has been formally indicted by the ICC for alleged war crimes.

The next time Mr Bashir calls a cabinet meeting in Khartoum, there might be another nervous face at the table. One of his colleagues, Ahmad Harun, holds the remarkable distinction of being minister of humanitarian affairs and an indicted war criminal. All that you need to know about Sudan's regime is betrayed by the fact that the man holding formal responsibility for the aid effort in Darfur has also been charged with 51 counts of alleged war crimes.

In order to get his deferral from the Security Council, however, Mr Bashir may have to lock up Mr Harun. In the finest traditions of African dictators, Mr Bashir may sacrifice his friends in order to save his own skin.

But there is another course open to the president. Instead of trying to appease his trio of critics on the Security Council, Mr Bashir could adopt a far tougher approach. On the table are two nuclear options.

Mr Bashir could simply retaliate against his own people by shutting down the aid effort in Darfur - and then blaming the West for their suffering. A sizeable constituency of African, Middle Eastern and even Western opinion would probably fall for this.

A nascent peacekeeping force, jointly deployed by the United Nations and the African Union, is slowly establishing a presence in Darfur. Unamid, as the force is known, has achieved hardly anything - and the Khartoum regime makes its life as difficult as possible. The second option open to Mr Bashir is to expel Unamid altogether and then denounce his Western critics if Darfur suffers another round of violence.

So far, there is no sign of the president choosing these options. Instead, by calling a ceasefire, he seems to be adopting what Western aid workers call a "positive" response to his possible indictment.

But if Mr Bashir is formally charged, this will sorely test his goodwill. Many thousands of lives could hang on this unique example of plea bargaining by a president who fears becoming an international outlaw.
Have your say - Copy of Comments

What a disgusting world we live in - full of pathetic political horse trading - when the realities are concrete and foul.

Since China gets 10% of her oil from the Sudan it clearly is a place of mineral wealth and ought to be, based on the standard criteria for wars funded by resource hungry powers, ripe for a proper military invasion not a pathetic token UN peacekeeping force.

Let's look at it the way the leaders of the world see it:

It's all well these problem states killing hundreds of thousands of their own citizens when there is nothing of value to the outside world involved in their internal squabbles - but woe betide them if their civil wars get in the way of mineral wealth being ripped off by third parties paying one faction of another for it - even though it never trickles down to the benighted average citizens in their abject poverty, when not simply being murdered for their pathetic patch of subsistence land.

Post-colonial Africa is a bloody appalling place and frankly what the citizens of that continent do to each other left to their own devices is the best argument possible as to why the colonial era actually did them all a favour. How unPC is that?

Maybe China and others should be leading a tacit second colonial era - if it means schools, hospitals, stability and enough food. Anarchy, endemic corruption and tribalism has to end somehow...
Posted by simon coulter on November 14, 2008 11:20 AM
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The Sudan is a vast terriotory populated by the Arab Muslims in the North and the Black 'Christians' in the South. The North have always looked down on the South, regarding themselves as superiors. And that lies at the heart of the problem. It would be a pity if the State were split, but that is the way it seems to be heading.
Posted by swatantra on November 14, 2008 9:54 AM
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Thats a powerful analysis of the situation in Darful. Bashir did not have the inention whatsoever to stop the war and the ICC prosecutor did the right thing. Remember the peace talks had been suspended but were recently rescusitated when Ocampo applied for an arrest warrant against Bishir. However legaly speaking i am not sure if the genocide charges will be sustainable against Bishir, I am of the opinion that the evidence there is scanty to support this averment especialy in view of the legal definition of the term genocide itself. The court can accept the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity but i doubt if it can accept the genocide one for the reason that violence was not targeting a specific ethnic group.
Posted by Innocent mawire on November 14, 2008 6:44 AM
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