SUDAN WATCH: Western governments are on the brink of becoming parties to the Sudanese conflict

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Western governments are on the brink of becoming parties to the Sudanese conflict

The latest from Alex de Waal at Making Sense of Darfur is:
Don’t Do Anything: Stop and Think for a Moment

The logical next international counter-move is military.

The response of the blog ‘Wronging Rights’ to the arrest warrant had it about right, “@)*&U#*()$&!!!!! Are you KIDDING ME?????) @*($)%&)%>>>>>>&*#^%*#&%^>.”
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Click here to view short video or read transcript of a debate hosted by Democracy Now on March 6, 2009 between HRW’s Richard Dicker and Alex de Waal re ICC indictment of Sudan president.
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Peace must prevail


Here's thinking about all the defenceless women and children in Sudan and Chad and, to quote Julie Flint and Alex de Waal:
"There will be no justice in Sudan without peace. When peace and justice clash, as they do in Sudan today, peace must prevail."
And this great line from a Willie Nelson song:
"There is a peaceful solution. It’s called a peace revolution."

Photos from The Times, 5 March 2009: Darfur war crimes court orders arrest of President Omar al-Bashir

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Note this copy of an interesting blog post March 7, 2009 by Sudanese blogger Drima at The Sudanese Thinker:

Sudanese Bloggers React to ICC -
Here are the thoughts of Sudanese bloggers so far in reaction to the ICC’s arrest warrant for our lovely dictator.

First, let’s check what Nesrine at Cif thinks of this:
Toothless and badly-timed as the indictment of Sudan’s president may be, morally we cannot afford not to support it.

… The timing was unfortunate. Many in the Arab world are still reeling from the recent incursion into Gaza and governments are continuing to capitalise on anti-western sentiment. The ostensible hypocrisy of targeting Bashir when apparently Israel and the west are impune renders his martyrdom on the altar of international double standards convenient for Arab or African heads of state living in their own glass houses.
Secondly, we have Sudanese Optimist:
Every media outlet is giving a voice to a plethora of self appointed political pundits, common-sense-loathing activists, and confused citizens of the earth, all trying to make sense of the International Criminal Court’s issuance of a warrant for the arrest of Omar Al-Bashir. However, the one voice that seems to have been muffled by the pandemonium surrounding the issue is that of the Sudanese citizen. I ask: what about me Luis Ocampo

… the pragmatist in me is questioning the effectiveness of the ICC’s decision, and the extent of ‘justice’ it will provide for the victims of the Darfur conflict. It could be too early for the man on the street to speculate, but I sincerely hope that Luis Ocampo and the ICC have a follow-up plan to assuage the commotion caused by the indictment of a sitting head of state. Does the ICC consider this the end result, or a starting point in the quest of peace and justice in Sudan? This question remains unanswered.
Now, let’s move over to see what AK has to say.
The first thing that I noticed was the fact that the Court only charged him on two of three accusations, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The prosecutor did not get his third request for the crime of genocide. This is very telling. Both the first two crimes can be very easily proven and linked back to Al-Bashir, however, the third accusation (of genocide) cannot be as easily proven or linked back to the President.

… Also, the ‘Save Darfur‘ crowd in the United States cannot be happier. In fact, they are using this opportunity to raise funds, as if this arrest warrant is all due to their so-called “advocacy.” This is a snapshot of their website’s home page taken after the arrest warrant was issued.


Along with most Sudanese I know, I am very critical of Save Darfur (et al.). They have been the strongest proponents of intervention in Sudan, something which will undoubtably exacerbate the situation for the worse. But I’ll leave that for a later time.

… Here is a clip of the scenes from Khartoum today:

AK also posted this video of Sudanese ICC supporters and Bashir supporters clashing in NYC. At about 1:30 in the clip, you can see the clashes between the Bashir and ICC supporters:

And now we have Mimz with her thoughts.
I am not a big fan of El-Bashir, in fact I despise the man (would be an understatement) for what he has been putting our country and our people through for the past god knows how long. But the ICC just could not delay this decision, which we all knew was coming, and felt the need to make it today and ignore the fact that the first democratic elections in more than twenty years are expected this year.
Finally we have Path2Hope.
Now the warrant has been issued and exactly what this means for Sudan I do not know. But what I do know is that expelling the activities of 10 of the aid agencies does not help either. Hasn’t the average Sudanese suffered enough? Now that these agencies can no longer do their work - who will step in and fill the gap? I am so angry at not only this reaction in Sudan but by the idiotic ruling of the ICC in the first place.
On a related note, here are Rob Crilly’s latest Twitter updates directly from Darfur where he is right now. They ain’t that pretty.
# NGO staff held at gunpoint in Nyala on way to airport to leave. They were stopped by national security, very people kicking em out 7:07 AM Mar 5th from web

# Tired, smelly. Out of anti-perspirant. Word is Bashir coming here on Sunday but I need a drink 8:18 AM Mar 5th from web

# aid workers now stuck in Khartoum. Must wait for exit visas - the final irony 9:07 AM Mar 5th from web

# three aid vehicles burned in Khartoum last nightabout 18 hours ago from web

# Unamid staff now being allowed out of base to go home after 48hr lockdown. All calm in El Fasher about 19 hours ago from web

# three aid vehicles burned in Khartoum last nightabout 18 hours ago from web

# Aid workers staying in khartoum for now as negotiations continue. No-one holding much hope. about 15 hours ago from txt
Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but chuckle and wonder to myself “WTF?” after receiving the following email from Save Darfur.
Urgent: Bashir retaliates and expels aid groups
Oh, really? He expelled them? Nooo, you’ve got to be kidding me. OMG, that’s like sooo impossible. Really? Oh, that’s terrible.

Gosh, no but seriously, like, what the hell did you expect beloved Save Darfur? That Bashir was just going to sit back and relax? Do nothing?

An arrest warrant has been issued. Great, now what? Can you enforce it?
On Wednesday, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President al-Bashir. In response, Bashir has launched a crackdown on humanitarian aid organizations, reportedly ordering a dozen major aid operations to leave Sudan. The United States must lead an urgent, intense and sustained diplomatic push to ensure the continued flow of humanitarian aid and end the genocide in Darfur.
Yeah, I’d love to see that, I really do, but something tells me the United States is too busy fixing its economy. I do hope I’m wrong though.

Like I said, pursuing justice is wonderful, but pursuing peace and stability first and foremost is more important. Savo Heleta, author of “Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia” states it nicely.
Justice is very important for the victims, post-conflict reconciliation, and the future of Darfur and Sudan. However, the aim of the international community should be to first bring peace to Darfur and then punish the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
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Here's another interesting blog post on the ICC issue at H. TAI's Happenings and Reflections March 7, 2009:
one step forward....ten steps back?

The ICC officially issued its arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir last Wednesday around 4pm Khartoum local time. The wearily anticipated news has had everyone on edge for some time now. Some fearing violence would erupt immediately after the press conference. Thankfully, no violence, just thousands of people out in a government organized protest in central Khartoum. Thursday was followed by more protests that drew even larger crowds. All government offices were given the day off and were highly encouraged to attend these protests.

It took me a couple of days to sit down and write this because I wanted to get a feel for various murmurs and whispers that underlined the roars of Al-Bashir supporters. It's all over the headlines; every major news agency has covered the immediate reaction of the government and Bashir's defiant dance to the West.

The general consensus here in the capital is that the issuance of this warrant is regrettable. Not necessarily because they are sympathetic with the president but more so worried about the outcome of this event. Many fear that this will lead Sudan into a downward spiral with its citizens bearing the brunt, particularly those in Darfur.

As someone who grew up in the West, I could understand how someone outside this country can see it in black and white....yes Al-Bashir should be tried at the ICC. But having spent time here working, I have begun appreciate the point of views of citizens of this country. I cannot say that there is a homogenous Sudanese point of view, but getting the chance to hear varied voices has led me to reevaluate this situation. The situation is far more complex and a message such as the ICC's indictment has some serious consequences. From a western point, the approach to this entire situation is 1 dimensional. I would say many of the repercussions of this indictment were not fully accounted for.

Politics and self-appointed political figures and pundits aside, the voices of regular citizens speak volumes and shove all the propaganda aside. From what I have gathered even those who strongly opposed Al-Bashir and his regime, are not in favor of the ICC's decision, for the following reasons:

1. Dislike for the government aside, many see it as a ploy by Western nations to meddle in Sudanese affairs and extort its natural resources. Bottom line they do not feel that anyone actually cares about the citizens of Sudan but are actually pushing for this indictment for ulterior motives. There is a very strong vibe of mistrust of the West here.

2. Some see it as another Iraq waiting to happen. Even though many Iraqis hated Saddam, he was the glue that held the country together. With so many ethnic groups in Sudan and the fragile North-South peace deal, Al-Bashir in a way is the glue that is holding this country together.

3. Others believe that it should not be a Western power (or Western backed power in the case of the ICC) to bring Al-Bashir to justice. "Sudanese people should find a solution to a Sudanese problem" one guy told me.

4. this warrant will ruin the country economically and millions will suffer as a result

5. The constant bombardment of propaganda from government and opposing groups will dominate the local media. All attention will be directed to this issue and everything else will be put in the backburner.

6. forget the word DEVELOPMENT... as now all focus will be directed to battling the "evil Western powers who are trying to bring down this nation"

Although the ICC's chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, now a household name in Sudan stated the greatest of this warrant will fall on Al-Bashir himself as it will restrict his international travel, many see that will not be the case. The ICC has no enforcement powers and many countries are not signatories of the Rome Stature, which created the ICC in the first place. Many believe the ICC and "Ocambo" are "not firmly planted on the ground" implying that they are not being realistic to believe that Sudan will comply and hand over Al-Bashir, especially since they have already vehemently refused to turn over 2 other government supporters/officials heavily implicated in the Darfur crisis.

What is more unfortunate and appalling is the government's decision to expel 10 of major NGOs, some of which were some of the most active in delivering basic needs and services to hundreds of thousands of people. For someone how is currently working in the development sector this decision is making my head spin. Really I cannot fathom how the government or the remaining agencies will be able to fill the gap of those who were expelled.

In talking to friends and acquaintances in some of the expelled NGOs, the mood is frantic and melancholy. Many of these organizations have no affiliations with the governments of their nations of origin. They are charitable organizations with the sole concern to aid those in displacement camps, rural populations and those seriously affected by the events taking/took place in this country. The means by which the government went about expelling these organizations is uncalled for. Many have had many of their possessions seized, not even being able to take paper from their offices..... they were told to evacuate immediately. But even that could not happen as many who made it to Khartoum are currently waiting to get exit visas, which are complicated further by the cumbersome government bureaucracy.

I really do hope the government rethinks this decision as it is detrimental to the well being of hundreds of thousands if not millions of Sudanese citizens. When Sudan's issues were brought to the international stage, I was excited as it finally highlighted the plight of millions who could not properly voice their situation. The past 2 years in particular were good in the sense that the government began to take notice and allocate funds to alleviate the suffering of those disenfranchised citizens. These past few years saw some progress in roads to inaccessible regions, funds to establish and strengthen government sectors working in developing the underdeveloped regions of the nation. The means by which the international community has applied pressure in recent years has helped the situation somewhat.

Sadly the ICC's indictment has set the nation on the path to taking ten steps backwards....after its first step forward.


Kizzie said...
"Sudanese people should find a solution to a Sudanese problem" It's like the say he is an SOB , but he is our SOB :)
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Here's another great blog post by American artist Rob Rooker who lives and works in Juba, Southern Sudan.

March 5, 2009 - silence:
fortunately juba seems calm and relaxed today. at least for the time being.

I’ve been following news reports by a guy named Rob Crilly who is currently reporting out of Darfur. It doesn’t sound so quiet there and looks like it could get a lot worse before it gets any better. He is also twittering here if anyone is interested to follow.

The reason for all this turmoil, at least for today, is that the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Omar Al Bashir yesterday. This particular man is the President of the whole of Sudan. Needless to say, he is not very happy with the whole thing. Go read here what the warrant of arrest is all about. Click on this link for a google news round up on all the current news and information coming out or also check out the Sudan Watch for more information.

Mr. Crilly has written a very nice article commenting on the advocacy outside of Sudan that pushed for this indictment to happen. I have to say that I rather agree with the points that he has made.

If anyone is interested in what other Sudanese are saying a great place to start is here -

What it has meant for us in Juba these last few days is just a whole lot of anxiety. There was fear that soldiers aligned with the government in Khartoum and soldiers aligned to the government of Southern Sudan might end up going at each others throats. They are supposed to be friends and working together at the moment, but little things come up every now and then and they start a fight. This arrest warrant is a rather big issue for the Sudanese and could have very well managed to spark things. Fortunately, up till now nothing has happened. Hopefully isn’t a smoldering match.

Because of our concern for a fight, we decided to temporarily relocate to one of the hotels for the past two nights. Currently we live right next door to the barracks for the Joint Integrated Units (JIU). These guys are made up of Northern and Southern soldiers and are the ones I mentioned in the above paragraph. If a fight had started, we were fearing it would start there. Not necessarily the best place to be if things had gotten a little hectic.

We are going back home tonight. We got tired of an uncomfortable bed, overpriced food (but good) and shortage of a change of clothes. I am hoping that sooner or later we will be able to find a better place to stay that won’t be so close to an ignition point and hopefully won’t have to worry so much about these sort of incidents.
Click here to see an example of Rob's talent and this HIV awareness poster that he was recently commissioned to create:

HIV awareness poster by Rob Rooker
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Sudan's child soldiers: forced into fighting

From yesterday's Guardian:
On the day the international criminal court issues an arrest warrant against the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, for war crimes in Darfur, we hear from four of the child soldiers. About 10,000 children are involved in combat in Sudan after being abducted from refugee camps in Chad to join the rebel forces.

See video clip: Sudan child soldiers
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Peace and Love

God bless the children in Sudan, not forgetting all the children in Chad.

Children at a refugee camp near the town of Goz Beida, Chad

Photo: Children at a refugee camp near the town of Goz Beida, Chad. (Nicholas D. Kristof/The New York Times Trailing George Clooney)

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