Home | Comment & Analysis    Wednesday 1 October 2008

Darfur: Will the World trust the untrustworthy?

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By Elrayah Hassan Khalifa

September 30, 2008 — It is reported that the Sudanese vice-President has left Khartoum heading to New York where he is expected to seek international support to suspend indictment of President Omer Al-Basheer by the International Criminal Court. (ICC). The irony about this piece of news is the fact that the Sudanese government was renowned for its consistent pattern of disrespect and defiance to the international community decisions and in particular resolutions of the Security Council (SC). The crisis of Darfur, as is commonly known, dates back to April 2003 and the victims are still looking for justice and redemption from the international community. The overwhelming majority of these victims are still away from their homes (reports say about 2, 500000). They lost everything they had. Their past has been shattered after the government burned their villages, destroyed their livestock and eliminated almost all signs of life in the vicinity. They have further lost any prospect for the future as they observe government’s recent atrocious attacks on the camp of Kalma. No doubt, that Darfur tragedy is considered an indelible stigma upon all of us, as Sudanese, as Africans and others, particularly those who possess the capability to stand up for this unjust government and put an end to their cowardly attacks.

I am curious; how can this Sudanese Vice-president have the nerve to speak to the international community about Darfur with his government announcing any change in its policy respecting SC resolutions. Does he pretend to be oblivious of his government’s attitude towards decisions of the international community with respect to the issue of Darfur? I don’t believe that Mr. Vice-President was not aware of Resolution 1556/2004, in which SC started to handle the conflict in Darfur. In that resolution SC mandated the government of Sudan to end the state of impunity by disarming and arresting the Janjaweed militias and bringing them to trial. What did the Sudanese Vice-President do to implement this resolution? Did he not respond to this resolution by waging more attacks against the weakening civilians of Darfur? You bet he did. And when SC was informed of the non-compliance of the Sudanese government with Resolution 1556/2004, it adopted Resolution 1564/2004, in which it urged the Sudanese government to comply with Resolution 1556 lest it would use Chapter V11 of the UN Charter. Again did the Sudanese Vice-President who is coming to address the United Nations on the issue of Darfur, urge his government to take any positive steps with regard to this resolution? The answer to this question is actually offered by Resolution 1591/2005, in which SC resorted to Chapter V11 and decided inter alia to freeze the assets of the parties of the conflict, the resolution further provided for Weapon embargos. The government of Mr. Vice-President refused to honor all these resolutions and continued to carry its attacks against the civilians in an open defiance to the international community. Seeing that all its efforts had not found reverberation, the SC, in order to exhaust all means available to protect the civilians of Darfur against its own government, referred the matter to the ICC. Even so, Mr. Vice-President did not make any attempts to solve the conflict of Darfur or even to show any good intentions to settle this conflict with or without the international community.

When collecting the evidence leading to the indictment of the Sudanese individuals; Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb, the chief prosecutor of the ICC did not only rely on the report of International commission of Inquiry on Darfur, but he paid a visit to Sudan and collected all the evidence to support his case. Based on the evidence which the prosecutor submitted to the Trial Chamber of ICC Judges, the judges issued arrest warrants against the two Sudanese accused. Had the Chief Prosecutor found any genuine legal attempt form the government to try the two accused he could have given the Sudanese local court jurisdictional priority. Again, why did the government of Mr. Vice-President neither initiate genuine legal proceedings against the two accused nor cooperate with the ICC to hand over those criminals? These documented records demonstrated how the Sudanese government interacted with the international organizations. It was not until the Chief prosecutor of the ICC requested the court to indict President Omer Al-Basheer for charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and murder; that the government of Sudan felt the magnitude of the matter and started to act in a local, regional and international level.

The initial reaction of the government was a combination of panic, confusion and lack of reason. It regarded the request for the indictment of the President as a declaration of war and started a belligerent rhetoric in which it mobilized the people to defend their Islamic government. The parliamentary meeting which was held to discuss the issue of Darfur in light of the ICC Prosecutor’s request for indictment; did not actually discuss any legal issues pertaining to the conflict. Members instead were overzealously emotional and they kept attacking the ICC and the Prosecutor, avowing that they would neither recognize the ICC nor would they hand over any Sudanese individual to be tried outside Sudan. As Mr. Vice-President occupied a leading posture inside that meeting it would be fair to ask him about the role he had played in that meeting. Did he, by chance, attempt to invite a voice of reason, into this meeting, to keep down these stormy attacks against the ICC and its personnel? He most certainly didn’t. He was in a position to replace that chaotic and irresponsible spirit surrounding that meeting and not be part of it. One has the right to wonder how someone can transform overnight from an agitator, turmoil and chaos instigator, and advocate of violence, to a responsible person, who could be entrusted with making peaceful and just solutions to issues he himself was the most important element of their cause and continuation. After the announcement of its policy, the government instructed the media to back up this policy by galvanizing the public and rally them behind their president, emphasizing that no Sudanese would be extradited to any foreign entity, including the ICC. The T.V., the radio the press were all directed to affirm emphatically that any attempt by the ICC towards executing such an arrest would be regarded as a gross violation of Sudanese sovereignty. On the other hand, Sudanese government intensified its diplomatic movement among the regional organizations such as the AU and Arab League; not to discuss the issue of Darfur, but rather to seek a means by which it could extricate President Al-Basheer from this predicament The AU was involved from the start in the conflict of Darfur and the United Nations perceived it appropriate to expanded the AU’s role. But it was harshly criticized for being subservient to the Sudanese government. Most observers believe that AU should undertake a balanced role; observing both parties’ interests, especially those who need more help and attention. The remarkable efforts of the AU; which were exerted towards postponement of the indictment of President Al-Basheer could be spent in convincing the Sudanese government to solve once and for all the conflict of Darfur. Nevertheless AU’s endeavors among permanent members of SC and other member states were not favorably received. The Arab League on the other hand, has never stepped up to its role to aid one of its members and has never been part of this conflict from the start. Perhaps Darfurians are not Arab-like, such as Palestinians for example. In any case, the Arab League has no influence regionally or internationally and its records are void of solving any conflict even among the Arabs. Hence the momentum created by the Arab League acting as a surrogate for President Al-Basheer did not go beyond the regional level. Consequently when all attempts of Sudanese officials have failed they are now resorting to the UN.

It is worth mentioning that Sudanese Vic-President Ali Osman Mahmmad Taha, who is leading the delegation, is not only a paramount figure in the government but he is the policy maker of this regime, who acquired such a position after he had toppled the then strongest man in the regime who was also his religious mentor. As was mentioned earlier, from 2003 up to this very moment the International community was appealing to the government of Sudan to stop the atrocities and have mercy on their country men, but the government of Sudan has never responded positively to such an outcry. The direct question before Mr. Vice-President is; why has he come after all these years to “to speak about the ongoing efforts to settle the five year conflict” in Darfur? He has shown up today after his government has transformed Darfurians’ villages into ruins and their hopes and dreams into havocs. He has shown up today after his government disrupted the life of the most peaceful, quiet, enduring citizens and forced them out of their homes to seek safe heaven in neighboring countries. He has shown up today after his government intentionally, willfully and maliciously committed, or instigated the commission, or conspired to commit; the most horrifying crimes ever; including genocide, crimes against humanity war crimes, murder and rape. He has shown up today and not in 2004, 2005, 2006 or 2007, does he have a viable justification for that? If Mr. Vice-President doesn’t want his credibility to be called into question he could perhaps explain the consistent rejections and disrespect of the Sudanese government to the SC Resolutions ever since the inception of the conflict. The news state “The Vice-President would try to convince the UN Security Council permanent members who are opposed to the suspension of indictment to support the move.” It is obvious; therefore, that the only motive behind this visit is the indictment of Mr. President Al-Basheer and not finding a solution to the problem of Darfur. Citizens of Darfur and their sufferings have never been a top priority issue for this government. This would explain to the international community how the government of Sudan, who was capable of solving this conflict long time ago, and avoid all the dire pain and hardships, has intentionally chosen to prolong the sufferings of the people of Darfur.

The government of Sudan responded immediately when the matter was finally brought to justice. Ironically while the Sudanese Vice-President is negotiating to suspend the indictment of President Al-Basheer Sudanese media is still broadcasting the same rhetoric of neither acknowledging nor honoring the decision of the ICC, which was in essence the adoption of Resolution 1593. How would Mr. Vice-President be able to reconcile these two issues? It seems, however, Mr. Vice-President is used to these awkward situations. A certain individual by the name of Dr. Abdalwahab Alafandi, who was once a leading member of Vice-President’s organization and broke way from both the organization and the government provided some accounts from a meeting which was held to discuss the indictment of Ahmad Harun and Ali Koshyb and whether the government should consider complying with the ICC or not. He explained how all the members of the meeting were about to reach a consensus in deciding to consider handing over the two accused to the ICC. The only dissonance in this harmony was Mr. Vice-President, described Mr. Alafandi, who attacked vehemently the trend of the meeting and refused any cooperation with the ICC considering it to be a compromise to the sovereignty of the state. As Mr. Vice-President was an authoritative person both in the organization and in that meeting, his views were adopted. Based on what Mr. Alafandi said; what made Mr. Vice-President change his mind now? If he is intending to address the United Nations General Assembly about a comprehensive solution to the issue of Darfur, he is more than welcome to do that provided; ICC decisions should be part and parcel of this solution. Darfur had faced armed conflicts before and a reconciliation committee was convened. After the conflict was resolved, the recommendations of the committee for punishing the criminals and compensating the victims went largely unheeded. The ramifications of these events resulted in a resentful feeling among the citizens of Darfur who were mostly African tribes. It is in the nature of things that providing justice shall precede maintaining peace, especially if the criminals are identified and known. It is my understanding that both Sudan Liberation Movement (SLA) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) of Darfur are looking for a speedy and decisive settlement for this issue and they have been struggling with the government to reach such a settlement. Since the criminals, in this conflict, have been identified it is unlikely that the representatives of the Darfur would reach any agreement without seeing justice done and victims being redeemed.

Throughout this conflict China and Russia have been both supporting the government of Sudan against the victims of Darfur for no apparent reason other than their narrow interest. It is hard to comprehend which standard of morality they subscribe to, other than the fact that the former is hungry for oil and the latter is impervious even if all the Darfuians were killed by the weapons it is selling. As for United States its association with the conflict of Darfur goes back to June of 2004 when the Congress decided unanimously that what was happening in Darfur was in fact genocide. Though I am conscious of the reservation the United States has against the ICC, but the issue here is the respect and recognition of the SC Resolutions. The Sudanese government, as the United States knows, has never paid any respect to the international organization, on the contrary it defied its resolutions time and again and it made a mockery of the ICC. That being said Would US support the request of the Sudanese government to postpone the indictment against President Al-Basheer notwithstanding the Resolution of the Congress which was passed unanimously emphasizing that the government of Sudan was committing genocide in Darfur? The records of this government demonstrate that it is not trustworthy. How many chances were those leaders given to settle the conflict of Darfur that they turned down? And how many times did they threaten international peace and security? This coward government can resort to any means, so far as it could attain its objectives. It did not feel ashamed to threaten the humanitarian workers who provided essential needs to those who were forced out of their homes and stayed in the camps; the government threatens to expel them if the ICC moved to effect the warrant arrest. Mr. Vice-President might try to argue that any arrest of the President would disrupt the ongoing peace agreement. But the question is; what kind of President is he speaking about? Is he not the same person under whose supervision all these ferocious attacks were carried out by his official army and the militia of Janjaweed, who were given impunity to raid the civilians of Darfur? Is he not the same President who stood steadfastly against any cooperation with the ICC? In fact Darfurians and the rest of the Sudanese people would be better off without this president in power. After all, this president was a product of a military cop d’état which usurped the democratically elected government. Begging off on the plea that this would disrupt the ongoing peace agreement was only a pretext contrived by the government and fed to its surrogates to escape indictment. As the equitable maxim goes “he who comes to equity must come with clean hands”. Hence; one can not expect the SC to grant a postponement for Mr. President’s indictment without providing strong evidence that he had complied with the resolutions of SC and decisions of the ICC or even respected them. It would not help his case to scare the international community; by alleging that Sudanese would retaliate to any move by the ICC, or that his absence would create a chaotic situation in Sudan, which would affect the whole region. Charles Taylor of Liberia attempted to elude the international community by alleging that his arrest would result in chaos and instability in his country. After he was arrested his country became one of the most stable, secure, and peaceful countries in the area.

In this conflict the international community exerted all efforts and used all material and human resources to help ameliorate the conditions of the citizens of Darfur. The United Nations has acted notwithstanding the threats of the Sudanese government to its humanitarian aid workers. As the people of Darfur are now setting their hopes on the United States to veto any attempts to postpone the indictment of President Al-Basheer it is unlikely that the United States would turn their back on them. It is my understanding that the United States would most certainly honor its pledge and help protecting these victims of genocide

The author is a Sudanese based in California USA.



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