Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bashir's Pre-Election Victory Lap at the Scene of the Crime

Can you imagine Slobodan Milosevic running for president in Srebrenica? The world would have been justifiably outraged. Yesterday, however, indicted war criminal Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir visited El-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur. While not an official campaign appearance, the trip comes three days after Bashir received the formal presidential nomination of his party in the upcoming elections in April. It is long past due for the world - and particularly the United States - to express its grave concern about the sham electoral process that in a few months could effectively legitimize Bashir's repressive government.

This week at a campaign stop, Bashir vowed to his supporters that the elections would teach the world lessons in dedication and sacrifice. What they are really teaching the world is that a dictatorial and even genocidal regime can forgo its commitments to peace and democratic transformation without suffering any consequences. These elections did not fall from the sky, but - instead - were supposed to be a key milestone in transforming the country after decades of civil war. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) agreed to by Bashir's party and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in 2005 set a path for the Sudanese to rebuild their political institutions, economy, and society.

The death and destruction in Darfur and continued repression of political opponents by the Bashir regime over the last four years vitiated the CPA-inspired hopes that those in power in Khartoum had disavowed intimidation and violence as the chief means to resolve political differences within Sudan. But despite the lack of basic political freedoms and the insecurity that persists in Darfur, the Bashir regime now promotes these elections as a critical moment in the history of Sudan. Their strategy cannot be any clearer: use these elections to consolidate power within Sudan and re-legitimize themselves in the international community.

While Milosevic attempted to steal the Serbian elections in 2000 after a decade of bloodshed in the Balkans, he could not campaign in Srebrenica, the site of the worst massacre during the civil war because Bosnia had gained independence. In stark contrast, Bashir's visit to Darfur serves as a pre-election victory lap at the scene of the crime. Indeed, his regime has declared that Darfur is now safe enough for elections to take place and, if that's the case, it follows that the conflict must be over. Despite clashes this week between rebel forces and the Sudanese army, violence over the last two years has significantly diminished in Darfur. The clever 2010 election strategy though by Bashir attempts to hide the fact that 2.7 million Darfuris remain displaced, a peace agreement with the Darfuri rebels remains elusive, and Bashir and others perpetrators of war crimes remain fugitives from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes committed in Darfur. Read full article >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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