Saturday, May 02, 2009

Sudan: Is Judgment Day Near for Omar Al-Bashir?

Mahmood Mamdani's recent article Beware of human rights fundamentalism substantively goes through the reasoning the author has repeatedly made over the past few years regarding the Darfur imbroglio. This time he is offering gratuitous advice to former South African President Thabo Mbeki about the arguments he should make to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and interested parties on how to deal with the African Union's (AU) call for him to negotiate a postponement of the ICC's indictment of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir.

Leading a panel and mandated by the AU, Mbeki has started work on a possible African-led resolution of the crisis in Darfur. The panel has been advised by AU members to call for a year's deferment of the process of the ICC war crimes indictments against Sudan's president. The eight-member panel includes three former African heads of state: South Africa's Thabo Mbeki, Burundi's Pierre Buyoya and Nigeria's General Abdusalam Abubakar.

During the opening session of the exercise at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa various delegates argued that the ICC indictments against President al-Bashir will in effect undermine attempts to arrange peace in Darfur. The suggestion is that deferring the ICC indictments will allow time for African-led peace efforts in Darfur to take firm shape. Mbeki argued that the AU charter claims primary authority over African peace and security issues: 'The African Union has taken the clear and unequivocal decision the continent must act not only to end war and violent conflict in Africa, but also to ensure that where war does anyway break out, all belligerents must know that war crimes, crimes against humanity and other abuses will be punished resolutely, and that a culture of impunity will not be permitted to take root and entrench itself.'

There are certainly legions of problems with the self-appointment of the ICC to sit in judgment on all of us when we are neither all in agreement with the terms of the mandate or the moral credentials of the powers that be. These are general considerations. Its use cannot be ruled out however. Slobadan Milosevic, Charles Taylor and Thomas Lubanga are clear cases in point. In the specific instance of President Omar al-Bashir and his genocidal project in Darfur, is judgment day is near?

Taking a page from the book of the South African settlement which brought apartheid to a close, Mamdani's plea on behalf of al-Bashir is that, 'The rationale was simple: where there was no victor, one would need the cooperation of the very leaders who would otherwise be charged with war crimes to end the fighting and initiate political reforms. The essence of Kempton Park can be summed up in a single phrase: forgive but do not forget. Forgive all past crimes - in plain words, immunity from prosecution - provided both sides agree to change the rules to assure political justice for the living.' In other words, the recommended course of action should be based more on political expediency than justice. There are many who would swallow this suggestion, in spite of the bad taste it leaves in the mouth. Some will also argue that in light of the history of Arab-African agreements from time immemorial in the Sudan, the peace, if it is so loosely structured, will degenerate into a 'practico-inert'. We must remember that the Kempton Park meetings formally ended apartheid. Will al-Bashir end his brutal and genocidal policies in Darfur? Kicking out humanitarian NGOs does not speak well for magnanimity and reconciliation. As Abel Alier, the Southern Sudanese former vice-president under Muhammad Ja'far Numeiri, put the case in his book with the same title, there have been 'too many agreements dishonored' Read more >>>>>>>>>>

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