Sudanese Uncharted Waters
The die is cast. Sudan has entered uncharted waters as a result of the ICC arrest warrant against President Omar al Bashir. And indeed it is a nothing less than roll of the dice, a gamble with unknown consequences. Yesterday marks a turning point. We cannot say for sure in which direction Sudan will turn but there are many reasons to be fearful.
Conflict resolution is in part an exercise in reducing uncertainty, bringing former enemies together, and finding a solution that everyone can live with. For the last eight years, a great deal of effort by Sudanese and their international partners has gone into trying to accommodate diverse and distrustful people, all of whom have the capability to bring the country back into the abyss of war and destruction, within a common agenda of making Sudan function. Incentives, sanctions and pressure were all part of the package. But key to success was a shared vision, often blurry but nonetheless real, that solving the Sudanese problem was a common national challenge and that all without exception have a place in the new Sudan which arises from this effort.
The ICC is the reverse: a human rights absolutism that demands that some people be ruled out entirely. The ICC pretends to be outside politics, representing principles on which no compromise is possible. The key word is ‘pretense’, to paraphrase David Kennedy: it is a nice fiction for the human rights community to believe that it is ‘speaking truth to power’ and not actually exercising power. The ICC arrest warrant is a real decision with real consequences in terms of lives saved and lost and the political life of a nation.
I for one cannot see a political way out of this mess. The International Crisis Group writes that ‘the NCP is likely to look for a way out of a situation, by changing its policies or leadership. To succeed, it will need to change both.’ This is groping in the dark. What is ICG actually advocating here? It seems to me that it is calling for a coup. An internal coup is possible though unlikely and not, to my mind, a solution.
As of yesterday, everything that any commentator or expert thinks he or she knew with confidence about Sudan becomes moot. Wishful thinking took the place of analysis. Nick Kristof wrote a few days ago that fears of aid agency expulsion were ‘overblown.’ He got it wrong. Many among the advocacy groups in Washington DC see this as an opportunity for leverage, a chance for peace. I fear not: the ICC is a terribly bad instrument of pressure, because (a) the pressure can never be removed and (b) pressure only works if the end point to which the pressure is applied can be accepted by the party being pressured. The ICC indictment meets neither of these criteria.
The examples of the arrest warrants against Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and Charles Taylor of Liberia are routinely held up to demonstrate that good outcomes can prevail against skeptics such as myself. I don’t believe it. Milosevic was in the process of losing a war against NATO and Taylor was in the process of being eased out of power (with a promise of safe asylum). The one international policy towards Sudan that has really worked–the CPA–is focused on a negotiated transition. Milosevic and Taylor ran one-man dictatorships which crumbled when they were removed. Bashir is not a one-man dictatorship–on the contrary he has been overshadowed by his lieutenants for most of the last 20 years–so the idea that his replacement by one of his colleagues would represent a democratic transformation is not well-founded. The precedent of Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army is more pertinent. The ICC arrest warrant against Kony initially galvanized the peace process but when Kony realized the warrant could never be lifted it became an obstacle to an agreement. Ugandans who initially celebrated the ICC have become disillusioned.
The international community is playing its second highest card by demanding an arrest warrant (the highest card would be invading the country). That card is a dud. The Sudan Government will ignore it and the leverage that the internationals possessed is shrinking fast. I suspect that we will look back on the last few years as a time when things worked as well as they ever did in contemporary Sudan–when the CPA was implemented as well as could be expected, when death rates in Darfur fell from levels of famine and war to just 150 per month, when there were numerous opportunities for international engagement in moving things forward, slowly and imperfectly, but none the less forward.
Perhaps it will revert to this after a hiatus. Perhaps, with a wave of a magic wand, all of peace, justice and democracy will be realized in an instant. Possibly, some unexpected benefit will arise. Most likely, not. Yesterday was a sad day for Sudan.
I share your comment fully, the international community has washed its hands of the future of Sudan.
Whatever bad happens next we will all say ‘at least we did the right thing, they are the bad guys and that’s why it all went terribly wrong’.
We are taking the back seat instead of help driving the last three years to a safe destination. And these three years have been the most successful and peaceful in the past 40.
I am working with a UN agency in Darfur, so this warrant is highly worrying indeed.
This piece is spot on. The decision of the ICC is really the logically outcome of the process started with Judge GarzonÂ´s request for the arrest of Pinochet. However much you might laud such actions in particular cases (though you may question the motives behind those actions being taken), the precedent is a dangerous one. Judgements like the ICCs is only likely to solidify the government in Khartoum, much as the blocade by the US has clumbsily propped up the Cuban government for the last 40 years. The attempts by judges in Belgium and France to use international law against Presidents in Dijbouti, Rwanda, and Senegal can only reinforce the idea within the developing world that judicial systems are doing the beckoning of their political masters (sometimes, in fact, the truth is more mundane, with judge-instructor figures simply looking for fame and protagonism for themselves). As Alex de Waal puts it, “it is a nice fiction for the human rights community to believe that it is â€™speaking truth to powerâ€™ and not actually exercising power.”….
Do you believe that the helicopter crash that killed my classmate General Garang was really an accident? Somehow I believe things could have been quite different.
Good posting – yes it IS a sad day for Sudan. It seems there are people and governments who do not want peace or reconciliation to occur in Sudan. Nothing new there … the US and Eurpope could not care less how much blood was shed so long as their interests were protected. Considering Biden and Obama’s previous statements, and given the comments made today by Susan Rice as reported at ALJAZEERA.NET, it looks like tough times ahead. And we need a whole lot less confusion and more clarity as to what is really going on.
Although its influence may be waning, ‘save darfur’ has created an enormous amount of confusion and misinformation.
It would be good to see more articles with hard evidence of US- European -Israeli interference and meddling.
Here is my reply, published today at my blog Sudan Watch, entitled: “African Union’s initiative to try halt ICC’s proceedings against Bashir will give a chance for peace in Sudan”
In his latest analysis, copied here below, Alex de Waal seems very sad and downbeat. On reading the piece, I was surprised to learn that he cannot see a political way out of “this mess” and made no mention of the UN Security Council’s power to suspend the arrest warrant against Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir.
Today, (Thursday, 05 March 2009) AFP reported that the African Union will send a delegation to the UN to try halt ICC’s warrant against President Al-Bashir:
The move would “give a chance for peace in Sudan,” said the chairman of the bloc’s Peace and Security Council, Bruno Zidouemba, after an emergency meeting in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. He said the council “decided to pursue ways with the international community, and especially the UN Security Council, to halt the proceedings to give a chance for peace in Sudan.”
Also today, China’s spokesman Qin was quoted by VOA as saying that he hopes the UN will listen to the appeals of the African Union, Arab League and the Non-Aligned Movement and will call on the ICC not to hear the case, for the time being.
As stated here at Sudan Watch earlier today, my guess and hope is that the African Union’s initiative, especially with Col Gaddafi in the chair, will eventually succeed as UN Security Council members China, Russia, Libya, Uganda and Burkina Faso already support invoking Article 16 to suspend Mr Bashir’s indictment.
Note, Radio Netherlands reported on Tuesday 03 March 2009 that Libya’s African Affairs Minister Abdul Salam al-Tereyki (who is also the AU envoy for Sudan) told reporters in Khartoum that members of the AU would withdraw from the ICC if it issues an arrest warrant against President Al-Bashir.
Here is the copy of Alex’s analysis, and some of the first comments posted, from his ssrc.org blog Making Sense of Darfur.
The NC Government who doesn’t really care for the non Arabized people in Darfur, is winning the political game versus the Western World and the ICC already.
2 millions Darfurians are dying slowely after 24 hours of the ICC decision, as a result of 13 NGO’s expelled of the country.
Who is going to save the non Arabized Darfurians now. Who ever chose this is the best way to handle the NC, has no clue of the history of the Sudan and current political environment.
But a happy day for countering impunity perhaps? At the tiresome risk of be accused of being naive by Sudan’s expert analysts, I feel it is not the ICC indictment that is political in itself, but it has been excessively politicized by both adherents of De Waal’s position and the Sudanese government itself. Establishing the ICC was the historic result of a long battle that enjoyed the support of international civil society movements, human rights organizations and most democratic governments that uphold the primacy of human rights values.The ICC has only the energy and capacity to go for the so-called big fish in the contexts of human rights outrages; the instruction to investigate Bashir was given by the UN security council itself and the three pre-trial judges were international with one coming from Ghana. The ICC prosecutor himself is Argentine. Have not huge human rights violation occurred in Darfur? Is not the government directly responsible for many of these severe (and continuing) violations? Are we not all deeply disgusted by the culture of impunity leaders enjoy as they prey on their own defenseless civilians? Lets get back to the moral imperative that drives the rationale for ICC activities. Those who want to force ICC indictments and investigations to be subservient to political expediency, and acceptability of the indicted individual and his or her followers, misunderstand and dis-value the fundamental objective of the ICC, and indeed the rule of law.
Firstly, it is not consistent to say that Sudan will ignore the warrant AND kick out aid agencies. They ignored the indictment and credited themselves for a measured and mature response, but they are missing the opportunity to continue “business as usual”. They could still have the expulsions reversed on appeal, but I don’t know how likely that is given the tempraments of those involved. Fundamentally changing its relationship with the aid community on whom their population so much depends is serious internal change for the government to negotiate.
Secondly, it is the fact that Sudan is not a one-man dictatorship that gives it the possibility to deal with this and continue along to rebuild the country. In this sense, a compromise may be possible if the regime looks beyond the fate of one man (if he testifies, it is difficult for him to point at a higher authority for overall responsibility) and the UN and relevant bodies don’t seek further indictments against members of the regime (a propos of which, is there a sunset clause on the UNSC Resolution that referred Darfur to the ICC?)
I concurred with you Alex De Waal. The so-called ICC and its sponsors are playing with fire. They are not pursuing justice but it is in fact an injustice, the ICC is not impartial, otherwise it should not target only the African leaders.
It is a tool being used by the West as a neocolonialisation of Africa. Peace should be given a chance before pursuing justice.
The brains behind this imprudent decision do not want to see Sudan in peace, they are polarising Sudan to achieve their interests, look at the mysterious way that Garang died, was it really an accident or a conspiracy from the West?
The warrant is already out, and what next?. This is the time that Sudan should unite together irrespective of political parties and regions to defend their sovereinty.
The ICC is nothing but the whites chasing another bad nigger. It is colonialism all over. The arguments De Waal makes here are very to the point. On the one hand the UN is working for peace on coordination with the Sudanese government, and they are not the main obstacle to peace. On the other hand the UN wants government change in Sudan. Can anyone explein me the strange logic of this? This arrest warrant only makes things worsen and for Arabs and blacks it again will become proof of the fact that it’s colonial justice, 19th century style. The ICC and other international courts of this type could have shown this long ago this not be the case by taking on the powerfull, the ones supported by the US. It didn’t do it in Rwanda, Yugoslavia and elsewhere. This therefore is unjustice and cruelty administered.