Friday, December 02, 2011

Pesident Omer al-Bashir trepidation over arrest

By Steve Paterno,

December 1, 2011 — Since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against President Omar al-Bashir in March of 2009, just overnight, the dictator became prisoner within the confines of his own country, as he risks apprehension in any case he travels abroad. In search for solution, the regime then mounted fierce diplomatic campaign to circumvent the ICC authority and have charges leveled against President al-Bashir be dropped. These alleged charges are horrendous. They are ten counts in total, ranging from crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide; for the ethnic cleansing that President al-Bashir is waging in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Unfortunately, the regime’s diplomatic bid didn’t render any considerable support that it desperately needed. Instead, the regime is only able to win the sympathy of a handful of insignificant and reluctant allies, who are toothless to foil ICC legal proceedings, which is taking the life of its own, with devastating toll against President al-Bashir’s reign.
Cornered, President al-Bashir had no choice but ended up considering to limit his visitations to those only few countries he thinks are sympathetic to him. Even then, those limited visitations come with surmountable risks. For example, President al-Bashir was invited during the inauguration of South African President Jacob Zuma in May of 2009, and the same officials who invited him, warned that if he ever showed, they will be forced to lock him up. This is also a similar case in Uganda, where President al-Bashir was invited on several occasions, but the potential for his arrest is left open. In all these incidents, President al-Bashir dropped the invitations all together, for fearing the obvious.
In some of President al-Bashir’s daring trips, he miraculously survived near arrest scares. The regime in Khartoum is always afraid of the danger that President al-Bashir’s plane would likely face midair flight diversion in some of the hostile airspace, which will eventually lead into his detention. He actually came too close to facing this scenario in June of this year when he was flying from Iran en route to China, only to encounter refusal for passage through the airspace of countries ready to arrest him. When President al-Bashir’s flight was diverted back into Tehran, his Chinese sympathizers were uncomfortably at lost and those in Khartoum confirmed their worst fear.

Those in Khartoum also happened to discover midair flight diversion was not the only danger President al-Bashir faces when he decides to travel abroad. For example, in one of President al-Bashir’s trips to Ethiopia, he was stuck inside his plane at Mekele Airport, because the airport crew could not bring the boarding ladder on time. The anxieties of President al-Bashir and those of his entourage were further exacerbated when they caught a sight of a plane bearing USA flag taxing near them. Their expressed mood was of “severe panic” that it was the end. Even though this was a false alarm, the tyrant never takes chances in these situations, knowing too well his ultimate fate.

President al-Bashirs other defiant trips are just outright embarrassing, such as in 2009, in Qatar where the Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva declined to sit next to President al-Bashir at a banquet organized for Arab and South American states summit and Argentinian President refused to take a group photo that included President al-Bashir. Who in their right sense could accept the offer to feast next to an infamous international fugitive with bloods of innocent lives on his hands or even be in the same photo with such a character.

The isolationism of President al-Bashir is further amplified by the wave of Arab Spring, which witnessed some of his fellow Arab-Islamic military dictators dramatically losing power, such is in the case of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who is currently rotting in prison or the Libyan Colonel Maumar Gaddafi who was chased down the streets of his own hometown of Sirte and then smothered to death.

Kenya is one of the latest countries that deprived President al-Bashir of his limited freedom of travel. In 2010, President al-Bashir made a controversial trip to Kenya in order to attend a signing ceremony of Kenyan constitution. The visit put Kenyan government in awkward position as it received condemnations from all over the world. As a result, the Kenyan local chapter of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) petitioned the court to rule on the arrest warrant against President al-Bashir. Just this week, the Kenyan high court issued a landmark ruling, ordering the minister of internal security to immediately execute the arrest of President al-Bashir should he set foot in Kenya again. This ruling is significant not just because it bars President al-Bashir from traveling to Kenya, but it also sets legal precedent for justice loving people throughout Africa to compel their governments to execute the arrest warrant of international fugitives like President al-Bashir through the court system.

Although the regime in Khartoum is trying to downplay the significance of the Kenyan high court ruling, President al-Bashir took the matter upon himself by expelling Kenyan ambassador from Khartoum and recalling back Sudanese ambassador from Nairobi. Khartoum’s severance of diplomatic relation with Nairobi comes in wake of East African Community (EAC) denying Sudanese application of trying to join the community—the indication that Sudan is being immensely plunged into the abyss of isolationism. Sudan needs to do many things for it to join the family of nations, and among those things it could do is getting rid of President al-Bashir once and for all.

Steve Paterno is the author of The Rev. Fr. Saturnino Lohure, A Romain Catholic Priest Turned Rebel. He can be reached at

No comments: