The International Criminal Court handed down its first sentence on Tuesday to Congolese war criminal Thomas Lubanga for the use of child soldiers. After over three years at trial, and following his conviction in March of this year, the court issued a 14-year sentence, with one judge dissenting on the grounds that the nature of the crimes warranted a longer sentence. The court has not yet decided where Lubanga will serve out his term.
This is the court's first conviction and sentencing after nearly a decade in existence. But others are in the works, including the first head of state to be tried, Cote D'Ivoire's former president, Laurent Gbagbo, who was transferred to the ICC for trial in November 2011. (Sudan's current president Omar al-Bashir has also been indicted but has yet to be arrested). Gbagbo is charged with crimes against humanity, including murder and rape, for acts committed after the 2010 election when electoral disputes erupted into violence as Gbagbo refused to relinquish the presidency. The next step in his trial, the confirmation of charges, is expected in August 2012.
Under the tenure of Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo -- who was replaced earlier this month by new Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda -- the court has issued open (public) indictments against 28 individuals from seven countries -- all in Africa. The list is a who's who of notorious political leaders, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Saif al-Qaddafi, and military officials. The Court relies on national law enforcement, Interpol and the UN to arrest those charged, and only five of those indicted are currently in custody. 15 cases are currently before the Court, though trials are only scheduled for those in the Court's custody (some pre-trial proceedings are underway in absentia).
The Court's summer schedule shows proceedings will continue against the Central African Republic's Jean Pierre Bemba accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes; Sudan's Abdallah Banda and Saleh Jerbo for war crimes, including attacks on peacekeepers, and Gbagbo. Nearly a decade elapsed between Lubanga's crimes and his sentencing by the court, so don't expect speedy proceedings for any of them.
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Protests against government austerity measures have been spreading rapidly throughout Khartoum today, with Reuters reporting at least seven separate demonstrations in the Sudanese capital throughout the day. The number of protesters have grown substantially since yesterday, when Egyptian journalist Salma Elwardany reported a crowd of about 200 outside the University of Khartoum. 400 to 500 protesters took to the streets after Friday prayers in one suburb alone.
Elwardany was detained by security forces, as was activist Maha El-Senosy (who has been tweeting under the handle @MimzicalMimz) of the youth movement Girifna (@Girifna), or "Fed Up." Both have since been released. IRIN News reported that at least 100 people had been arrested in connection with the demonstrations as of June 20.
According to Reuters:
"The police fired tear gas and then used batons as they clashed with the protesters, who threw rocks. Witnesses said men in civilian clothes also attacked the demonstrators."
Rumors that Internet will be cut off have been circulating among the protesters via Twitter, under the hashtag #SudanRevolts, as activists attempt to circulate instructions for accessing social media via mobile phone. Other protesters have uploaded pictures that appear to show protesters blocking the streets with burning tires. Reuters reported that smaller protests have also broken out in Bahri, a suburb of Khartoum, but that they were quickly dispersed by heavy security presence.
Sudan currently has a budget deficit of about $2.4 billion, and inflation reached nearly 80 percent in May. Bashir's austerity measures include devaluing the Sudanese pound by nearly 50 percent, removing fuel subsidies and cutting back government by up to 50 percent. Austerity measures were implemented in order to cope with the loss of 75 percent of Sudan's oil production after South Sudan seceded in July 2011, taking the majority of the region's oil fields with it.
Despite calls by opposition groups for an uprising, Sudan has avoided the kind of demonstrations seen in neighboring Egypt and Libya last year.... so far.
The world's newest state -- South Sudan -- and Israel today established full diplomatic relations and will soon exchange ambassadors. The move was not a surprise. South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar said two weeks ago that his country would have "relations with all the Arab and Muslim countries and even with Israel." And a delegation of Israeli officials recently visited the African nation's capital, Juba, to hold talks with officials there.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu officially recognized the new country a week before the U.N. voted to make it the 193rd state to be admitted to the world body, earlier this month. "We wish it success," Netanyahu said at the time. "It is a peace-seeking country and we would be happy to cooperate with it in order to ensure its development and prosperity."
Israel, which has no relations with northern Sudan, has promised South Sudan economic help -- something it is in need of.
The Jewish state sees Africa as important diplomatic territory and has been offering economic aid and lucrative business deals in recent years -- including arms and agriculture -- in an attempt to counter Iran's growing clout on the continent. The effort is partially about votes in the U.N. -- Africa has 54 now. Iran has been trying to extend its outreach to African states like Senegal and Nigeria in an effort to counter its growing isolation in the West.
"This isn't likely to take the form of an auction-like bidding contest, but increased financial diplomacy by both the suitors, including targeted investments and aid projects designed to curry favor," Eurasia Group's Philippe de Pontet told Reuters last year.
Israel has another reason for wanting to establish ties with the new country. In recent years it has been flooded with thousands of refugees from Sudan -- people fleeing strife in both Darfur and South Sudan. They sneak into Israel through Egypt and have stirred debate about whether the country should be more or less welcoming. Already, since the announcement of new ties, the country's interior minister, Eli Yishai, has called on Israel to begin negotiations with South Sudan to return the refugees.
(In the image above, Sudanese refugees living in Tel Aviv celebrate independence on July 10.)
A two square mile patch of grassland on the border between Thailand and Cambodia, surrounding the 11th-century Hindu temple of Preah Vihear, has been a regional flashpoint for decades. The skirmishes have escalated in recent years and both countries maintain hundreds of troops along the border. But the fighting could quiet down soon if the sides agree to a ruling today by the U.N.'s International Court of Justice. The court declared that a demilitarized zone should be established immediately in the region surrounding the temple, outlined here in diagrams from the Bangkok Post. The two countries have indicated they would abide by the decision.
With the U.N. ruling, the area surrounding Preah Vihear joins a handful of other demilitarized zones around the world. The most famous of these has divided North Korea and South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953. The zone has played an important role maintaining the uneasy peace between the two countries, while also serving as a surprisingly effective wildlife refuge for a number of northeast Asia's endangered species. A similar phenomenon has emerged in the buffer zone established under U.N. control in 1974 between Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a breakaway region recognized only by Turkey.
Israel also deals with its share of DMZs -- one at the Golan Heights, where U.N. forces have maintained the ceasefire between Syria and Israel since 1974, and one at the Sinai Peninsula. But the latter now contains Egyptian soldiers deployed with Israel's permission during the chaos of the Arab Spring, after Bedouin tribesmen started bombing gas lines in the region to protest their treatment at the hands of the Egyptian government. Israel imports 40 percent of its gas from Egypt.
Looking for the next emerging DMZ? The two Sudans agreed in late May to set up a demilitarized zone along their border, but the details are still very much in the works. Conflict continues to brew over the contested region of Abyei, which lies in the middle of the border. Without a resolution to the dispute, the DMZ there could be a long ways off.
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Wow, that was fast. Just days after South Sudan achieved independence, the Chinese government has already established a vocational training program for welders in Juba. From Chinese state media outlet Xinhua:
JUBA - China has started a welder training course to help South Sudanese master knowledge and techniques relevant to the petroleum industry in which the newly-born nation has a large potential.
A total of 30 trainees selected from about 800 applicants are under the vocational training, the first of its kind in South Sudan, and are expected to be backbone workers in the petroleum industry in the future.
In the wake of South Sudan's vote this February to break away from Sudan, China has been working aggressively with both countries to maintain access to their oil reserves, most notably through Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's visit to Beijing in late June. Before the split, Sudan exported more than half of its daily oil output to China and was China's third-largest trading partner in Africa. Now, though South Sudan contains 75 percent of the two countries' combined oil reserves, it continues to rely on Sudan for the bulk of the processing and transportation infrastructure, including a crucial port on the Red Sea.
The establishment of a program to train welders suggests that China would like to reduce South Sudan's dependency on Sudanese infrastructure. It's a sensible goal. Tensions over oil revenues figure to be a major sticking point in Sudan-South Sudan relations; the countries have yet to establish a plan to divide revenues in an industry that generates 90 percent of the north's hard currency and 98 percent of the south's revenues. Meanwhile, the invasion of the border region of Abyei by forces loyal to Bashir has highlighted the threat of a major conflict between the two countries. There are certainly more stable countries from which to import your oil, but, with domestic demand at near-record levels, China may not have much choice.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
South Sudan's independence celebrations tomorrow look set to bring leaders from the world over: 30 African heads of state, plus Ban ki-Moon and a number of other senior Western diplomats. The presence of so many global bigwigs is wonderful news for the world's youngest country, but it has already made arrangements for the event a little more complicated. The Washington Times reports:
Sudanese President Omar [al]-Bashir's decision to attend South Sudan's independence celebrations in Juba on Saturday has created potentially awkward situations for delegations from countries that have been pressing for his arrest on a war crimes indictment...
A senior Western official in Sudan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said southern officials have assured the diplomatic corps in Juba they will do everything to avoid any embarrassments.
"The government is sensitive to these concerns and is going to do everything possible to make sure there are no embarrassments of any sort, on any side, on that day," the official said. "They are conscious that this might be awkward to Bashir as well."
A special seating arrangement has been worked out to minimize the possibility of blushing faces.
The International Criminal Court's March 2009 indictment alleged that Bashir was responsible for war crimes in the ongoing conflict in Darfur. Recent violence in border states Abyei and South Kordofan hasn't endeared him to the international community either. Bashir and rebel leaders pledged in late June to pull troops out of Abyei before the referendum, but Bashir's ambassador to Kenya reaffirmed yesterday the north's claim to the region. Bashir also backtracked yesterday on the June 29 peace accord between government officials and pro-southern rebels that promised to quell the fighting in South Kordofan.
Meanwhile, Jacob Zuma will be donning his superhero cape again on his visit to confront Bashir about recent violence in Sudan.
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Before hopping a plane to Sudan tonight, the Christian leader and son of iconic Evangelical Billy Graham talked to Foreign Policy about his work in the African nation, why the American Evangelical community is so passionate about it, and what he plans to tell President Omar al-Bashir when he meets with him.
Foreign Policy: How many trips have you made to Sudan?
Franklin Graham: I really don't know. It's been quite a few. We've been doing this for over 20 years, so it's a number of trips.
FP: Why is it such a passion of yours?
Graham: During the war, the north -- predominantly Muslim -- was trying to annihilate the Christians in the south. I saw it as a racial war, but I also saw it as a religious war. I thought it was important to stand with my brothers and sisters in faith and do all I could to help them in their time of suffering.
FP: Critics say this is just a case of a conflict involving Christians vs. Muslims and that's why you're concerned. Is that fair?
Graham: No, it's more than that, but no question that's a part of it. The north declared Shariah law. And the Christians said we're not going to raise our children and live under Islamic law and have Islam taught to our children in schools. We want to be free and have our own schools. They wanted a secular government. So, religion, no question was at the heart of this.
FP: It is one of the foreign policy issues that has really resonated with the Evangelical community. How come?
Graham: I don't think it's just Evangelicals. I think it was Christians in Europe and around the world that saw where Islam was trying to annihilate the Christians in the south. It was Arab against black, for the most part. But I try to make friends on both sides. Our hospital in Lui [in South Sudan] was bombed on seven separate occasions by the government in the north. I finally went to see President Bashir and I asked him personally if he would stop bombing our hospital. And he did. I since have had a number of meetings with him. And these meetings have always been productive. I found Bashir to be somebody you could speak with, could negotiate with. You know, he signed the comprehensive peace agreement. He's a key player to the peace program. I find that you have to talk to both sides if you want to have peace.
FP: You plan on meeting with him again this trip. He's a leader who has been indicted on war crimes by the International Criminal Court. What do you plan on saying to him?
George Clooney's "anti-genocide paparazzi" seems to be dominating nearly every transmission coming out of south Sudan this week. Clooney, along with the Enough Project, Harvard researchers, and some of his wealthier Hollywood friends, have hired satellites to monitor troop movements along the north-south border, particularly the oil-rich region of Abyei. Clooney, active for years in the Save Darfur movement, has also become something of a celebrity spokesperson for the independence referendum. Naturally, the international humanitarian blogosphere's snark brigade is out in force.
Laurenist: "If you're anything like George Clooney, you lounge around on your yacht off the coast of Italy thinking up ways to save Africa."
Texas in Africa: "While John Prendergast, George Clooney, and other advocates who don't speak a word of Arabic have been raising fears about violence for months … the likelihood that a genocide or war will break out immediately seems to me to be slim to none."
Wronging Rights: "Clooney has described it as 'the best use of his celebrity.' Kinda just seems like he's trying to recruit a mercenary for Ocean's Fourteen."
Troubling as this morning's border violence is, there seems to be good reason for skepticism about the satellite project. The imagery the satellites provide isn't all that clear, showing about 8 square
miles inches [Corrected.] per computer-screen pixel, making it difficult to figure out just what's going on on the ground. That level of imprecision can be dangerous when trying to assign guilt or innocence in crimes against humanity. There's also the question of how much of a deterrent this type of monitoring really is. Laurenist again:
In 2007, Amnesty International and the American Association for the Advancement of Science launched “Eyes on Darfur,” a satellite project that monitored developments on the ground in Darfur. As you’ll recall, mere months later, Darfur was saved after millions of people updated their Facebook statuses with a link to blurry photos of sand.
But what about Clooney's presence itself? The actor's use of the paparazzi and basketball as analogies for horrific human rights violations might be grating to those who study these issues seriously, but isn't it worthwhile to bring attention to an often overlooked conflict? Here's UN Dispatch's Mark Leon Goldberg:
I know some people (cough, cough, Bill Easterly, cough, cough) have hangups about celebrity activism. But does anyone really think that Sudan’s upcoming referendum would be covered on a National Sunday morning broadcast without George Clooney’s handsome face to greet viewers?
(Interestingly, Bono-basher-in-chief William Easterly doesn't appear to have weighed in yet.)
Clooney has his own words for the haters:
“I’m sick of it,” he said. “If your cynicism means you stand on the sidelines and throw stones, I’m fine, I can take it. I could give a damn what you think. We’re trying to save some lives. If you’re cynical enough not to understand that, then get off your ass and do something. If you’re angry at me, go do it yourself. Find another cause – I don’t care. We’re working, and we’re going forward.”
This kind of "at least I'm doing something" rhetoric drives development scholars absolutely bonkers and for good reason. But for now at least, it's hard to see how Clooney's presence as a cheerleader is really hurting. Once the referendum is over however, I hope he heads back to Lake Como. In international negotiations, a certain degree of obscurity can often be just as helpful as the media spotlight. Making a new country is a messy business anywhere, and in Southern Sudan, it's going to involve some very ugly compromises. (I wonder, for instance, what Clooney thinks about the Southern Sudanese government expelling Darfuri rebels in what seemed to be a conciliatory gesture to Khartoum.)
In the difficult weeks and months ahead, Southern Sudan will certainly need international help, but it should come from people with a slightly more extensive background in the situation. Most of all, it's probably not helpful for celebrities and the media to promote a narrative of the Juba government as the "good Sudan." Even in the best-case scenario, it's bound to be shattered pretty quickly.
In any event, the Southern Sudanese themselves seem pretty nonplussed about Danny Ocean's presence in their midst:
“Who is that man talking?” a Sudanese journalist asked, gesturing to a white man with a group of reporters around him. When told it was George Clooney, a movie star, the Sudanese journalist looked confused and walked away.
For more on Southern Sudan, check out Maggie Fick on the dangers of referendum euphoria, view a slide show of Juba on the eve of independence, and read Robert Klitgaard on how the region's leaders are preparing to crack down on corruption.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Andreas Markessinis has an intriguing post on the Nation Branding blog wondering just what the new country that will likely be created next week will be called:
One possible option is ‘New Sudan’, but some oppose the idea as that name would associate the new country with the actual Sudan, which is considered a pariah state. For a weak, new country with weak influence, getting the world population to distinguish between ‘Sudan’ and ‘New Sudan’ would take aeons. Many people still confuse South Korea with North Korea and don’t remember which one is the rogue state, so any combination of names including the word ‘Sudan’ will probably be counter-productive to the new country, nationals say.
In fact, another suggestion most Southern Sudaneses don’t like either is ‘Southern Sudan’. They discard it because the name raises fears that this name would also confuse people, as many people would think that ‘Southern Sudan’ is the Southern region within Sudan, and not a different country.
But while there are ones who oppose the ‘Sudan’ word, there are others who don’t want to lose it. The latter consider their region to be the real ‘Sudan’, while the Northern part, which has become arabized and islamized, is not. They unpolish semantics to substantiate it. ‘Sudan’, they say, etymologically means in Arabic ‘land of the black people’, which is how fairer-skinned Arabs called the lands of conquered black tribes under their power. So this would justify that the name ‘Sudan’ makes more sense in the blacks-populated South than in the Arab-occupied North.
Other possibilites up for consideration include plays on the Nile river, the area's main geographic feature, such as Nilotia, Nolotland, or the Nile Republic. Cushitia or Azania -- archaic geographic and ethnic names -- are other possibilities, though also fraught with uncomfortable overtones.
I have a feeling that intertia may dictate that "South Sudan" stays, given that it's already how the international media is referring to the place. But despite its past significance, I'd have to think that at this point dropping "Sudan" -- with its contemporary connotations of genocide and famine -- from the name would be a wise branding move. I doubt anyone in Bangladesh wishes today that the country had stuck with "East Pakistan" after independence. Most of all, Southern Sudan should be sure to avoid the nomenclatural abomination that is the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Nile Republic isn't bad, though as Markessinis notes, Egypt is pretty protective of the Nile brand, raising the possibility of a FYROM situation. Maybe the country could go the Altria route and just make up a name? Not the worst idea for a place badly in need of a fresh start.
YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley today defended the administration's decision to send a consulate officer as a representative to the inauguration of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, currently under indictment for war crimes:
Crowley acknowledged that the level of US representation was even below that of other nations, who sent their ambassadors or deputy chiefs of mission to Thursday's inauguration.
"It was a reflection of our relations with Sudan," Crowley told reporters.
When asked whether sending someone at all gave support to Beshir, who faces war crimes charges, Crowley replied that the United States had work there as it pressed for full implementation of a fragile 2005 peace deal.
He also said the inauguration was not just for the president but also for the first vice president, Salva Kiir, the chairman of Sudan People's Liberation Movement, who holds the post under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
So if it was too embarrassing to send someone higher up, why send anyone at all? Sending a consulate officer just gives Bashir some measure of legitimacy while making the U.S. look like it's trying -- unsuccessfully -- to avoid embarrassment.
Q: “How do you see the current American-Sudanese relations?
A: “For more than ten years, i.e. during the term of the administration of President Clinton then the administration of George Bush, the relationship has been very tense. And there have been many differences and clashes. But of course and thanks to the efforts of General Gration and after president Barack Obama has declared his new Sudan policy, it has became clear that the relationship developed greatly. We are very optimistic. For many years now, the relationship has not improved that much and it is not the best relation. But things are on the right track."
Q: "But many American NGOs are criticizing Obama's policies towards Sudan?"
A: "In the United States as in other countries, there are some parties that want our relations with Washington to deteriorate and wish to give a negative image of Sudan around the world, not only in regard to the Darfur issue but also in other cases. They think that Sudan is an easy target. But we in Sudan will always welcome anyone who wants to work with us peacefully and away from any media commotion. And now under Obama who has decided to open up to everybody and deal with many countries among which is Sudan, I sincerely hope that his efforts will be successful."
Update: This post has been updated to reflect a correction. A wise commenter has pointed out that our Arabic transcript was incomplete. The ambassador, Akec Khoc (not John Akweg) is a member of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) -- not the Khartoum government. We regret the error and thank our commentor for pointing this out!
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In the Foggy Bottom office meeting room of U.S. Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration, the walls are covered with maps. Then, squarely behind the seat at the head of the table, is a wipe-board with two important "count downs:" 148 working days Sudan's elections and 346 before the referendum that will decide whether South Sudan will go independent from the North.
"That's not a whole lot of time," Gration said this morning at a blogger roundtable which I attended. There is much work to do.
I'll mention some "breaking news" now, and blog more in depth thereafter:
1) Gration said that "last night," the administration did "reach and agreement on the overall broad framework on what we call incentives and pressures" that will govern a long-awaited Sudan policy release (a document that will lay out the approach of the new administration). A vote from the "principals" is still necessary, but Gration was confident that an internal government consensus had been reached. Sudan, he said, is a high priority for the administration. He has "weekly" meetings with the White House, and has had "daily" contact recently to finalize the policy release.
2) Responding to a query about his active engagement with a government whose president, Omar el-Bashir, has been indicted for war crimes, said: "I've not met with Bashir, nor do I have plans to meet with him. But I'm not ruling it out if we have to do it to move the process forward." Gration defended his strong engagement with Khartoum, for which he has been criticized by some advocacy groups. Such ties were the only real viable way to move peace forward in both Southern Sudan and Darfur, he said. "We would like to be able to fix Darfur and the South and the Chad conflict, the proxy war, we'd like to bring regional stability wihtout ever having to go to Khartoum. I'm serious, it would be wonderful." But not feasible.
3) Gration generated much controversy in late August by his comments suggesting that some sanctions on Sudan should be rolled back. Today, he spoke of keeping sanctions in place but applying for exemptions for certain projects that are, today, being hindered by strict regulations. "Some of the sanctions that we have in place are actually hindering our ability to do the humanitarian mission and the development mission -- and in some ways, even the security mission."
4) Finally, Gration plans to head back to Sudan later this month -- a visit that will begin in Juba, in Southern Sudan, to nail down still contested points of the peace process between North and South. The two sticky issues? The conduct of an upcoming census (a touchy issue with big political stakes for the voter rolls) and the actual details of the law that will govern a 2011 referendum in which South Sudan votes for unification or independence from the rest of the country. In short, Gration is going back to sort out some very fundamental issues. "If we can't get the refendum law right, if we can't get the process right, if there's violations or irregularities, this could really be bad...so we are working extremely hard to make sure that the process is transparent[.]"
More to come...
ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images
The Martha’s Vineyard Gazette and Martha’s Vineyard Times aren't typical venues for bringing your argument to the president but a coalition of groups seeking U.S. pressure to stop genocide in Darfur aren't taking any chances while Barack Obama is at the beach.
A new ad campaign by Humanity United, the Enough Project, Stop Genocide Now, and Investors Against Genocide, urges adminstration officials to back up campaign rhetoric about preventing genocide with action and appears in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, (and FP's Website) in addition to the two local papers. Here's the ad.
Sudan's president has allegedly replaced Salah Gosh, the veteran chief of the country's National Intelligence and Security Services, with the organization's deputy general manager.
It's not clear why the switch was made; the BBC reports only that Gosh has now been named President Omar al-Bashir's "adviser."
Gen. Mohamed Atta al-Mawla is in his early fifties and holds a degree in engineering, according to one Sudanese newspaper. In 1992, Mawla signed on with the country's national security bureau and has been working in government ever since, even serving a year-long stint at the Sudanese embassy in Kenya.
His most curious position? "Peace advisory secretary-general."
Maybe it was bound to happen. The Save Darfur Coalition says its mission is "inspiring action, raising awareness and speaking truth to power on behalf of the people of Darfur."
"Toss these message panties onstage at your favorite rock star or share a surprise message with someone special ... later."
Admittedly, this description is the same for the thong regardless of which logo is chosen. But I'm still cringing.
The dealer, CafePress, gurantees that "100% of the profits will be dontated directly to the Save Darfur Coalition (www.savedarfur.org)." And the deal goes beyond just thongs. Save Darfur pet bowls and beer steins are among the other items on offer.
In fact, even though they didn't make it, I'll be surprised if the Save Darfur Coalition doesn't distance themselves, given that they are featured as the recipient. On the other hand, if the Save Darfur Coalition's "millions of everyday citizens" all sent a thong to the White House, someone would have to pay attention.
Leading up to today's meeting of the African Union in Libya, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been a sore point for Sudan's president Omar Bashir, who was indicted by the ICC last July for war crimes related to violence in Darfur. His indictment has led to protests against the court in Khartoum like one pictured above on May 27, 2009.
Bashir, along with other AU leaders like Libya's Moammar Gadhafi have criticized the court's focus on Africa, and even gone as far as to propose in advance of the AU meeting that states should withdraw from the Rome Treaty which established the court.
Pushing back, however, have been advocates of the ICC including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In an op-ed yesterday in the New York Times, he defended the court against its African critics:
It doesn't look like the AU will actually decide anyone should withdraw, but the ICC is still under fairly heavy fire from other areas. A recent article in the World Affairs Journal bytwo Darfur experts, Julie Flint and Alex de Waal blames the ICC's controversy and dysfunctional dynamics on its Argentine lead prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. In particular they criticize his handling of the Bashir indictment and his continuing to push for a genocide charge that was rejected as too thin by ICC judges. As the Washington Post's Colum Lynch reported yesterday, there is significant concern that Moreno-Ocampo's efforts could undermine peace negotiations in Sudan.
One must begin by asking why African leaders shouldn’t celebrate this focus on African victims. Do these leaders really want to side with the alleged perpetrators of mass atrocities rather than their victims? Is the court’s failure to date to answer the calls of victims outside of Africa really a reason to leave the calls of African victims unheeded?Moreover, in three of these cases, it was the government itself that called for ICC intervention — the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Uganda. The fourth case, that of Darfur, was selected notby the international court but forwarded by the U.N. Security Council.
The I.C.C. represents hope for victims of atrocities and sends a message that no one is above the law. That hope and message will be undermined if the African Union condemns the court because it has charged an African head of state. The African Union should not abandon its promise to fight impunity. Unless indicted war criminals are held to account, regardless of their rank, others tempted to emulate them will not be deterred, and African people will suffer.
But with so much scorn and a suspect arrested for only one of its outstanding warrants -- former Congo rebel commander Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo -- the ICC needs help if it is to accomplish its mission of discouraging impunity. Even if no one withdraws (and Chile joined this week), few governments have thus far been willing to take much actionon the ICC's behalf. For now, it remains stuck with limited funding and no enforcement mechanism.
To preserve the ICC's relevance, the trial of Gombo will need to go very well, and some sort of progress will be needed on the Bashir case. What are the odds either of these will happen?
ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images
One of FP's Top Ten Stories you Missed in 2008 is resurfacing again today in Southern Sudan's Kordofan region. As we noted late last year, the region has all the makings of the next Darfur: strategic positioning between northern and southern regions, a scarcity of resources, and increasingly armed militant groups on either side.
Today, that comparison is even more pointed. The central government appointed Ahmed Haroun, wanted by the International Criminal Court for orchestrating the genocide in Darfur, to run Kordofan.
If the ICC's prosecutor is correct, Haroun was elemental in the deployment of the infamous janjaweed militias to scorch and burn Darfur. And if our reporting for the Ten Stories was correct, he might be asked to do his "good work" again -- this time in Kordofan. The flashpoint will likely be the 2010 elections. Armed groups in the region (who feel aggrieved and disincluded from both the southern and northern governments), as well as government troops (who see the region as a pivotal strategic point between north and south) look ready to use the barrel of the gun to secure the ballot.
Congratulations Omar al-Bashir! You have just been indicted by the International Criminal Court on five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes. You are the first sitting head of state to be wanted for arrest. Human rights groups, and even the ICC-skeptical United States, applaud the announcement. What are you going to do next?
There are two broad possibilities for how things might unfold. For the first time in history, the world will get to watch how a sitting head of state reacts to such damning charges.
First, there is defiance, and retaliation. The outcomes that Sudan watchers have feared are now on the table in the central African country. As the International Crisis Group writes in a statement today:
Bashir’s regime has already issued veiled threats against the UN and AU missions in Sudan, the international humanitarian agencies operating there and Sudanese who support the ICC prosecution. It could also direct, or encourage, violence against the millions of displaced Darfuris living in camps in the war-torn region. There are signs that it may also declare a state of emergency and clamp down on internal political opposition, to show the Darfur rebel groups that they will not be able to use this development to their military and political advantage.
It could get ugly. In the worst-case scenario, experts see Bashir consolidating his power, kicking out aid workers, stepping up repression in Darfur, and even squashing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and South signed just a few years ago.
But then again, as Luis Moreno Ocampo, the court's prosecutor, told FP just a few weeks ago, "For people in Darfur, nothing could be worse [than it is now]." Justice, at least, puts pressure on Bashir's upper cadre, and shows the people of Sudan that their leader is no longer immune. Negotiations with Darfur rebel groups, which were reopened on Feb. 17, will have to find a new interlocuter, says Ocampo. But that could be a good thing.
Overnight, the stakes have changed in Sudan. Justice looks possible, impuntity looks over, and internal unrest looks likely. What next?
On Monday in Washington, President Bush made one last ditch attempt for Darfur: he held talks with the least-worst person he could.
That person was Salva Kiir, who is both the Vice-President of Sudan and President of Southern Sudan. Hours earlier, the administration announced it was authorizing an emergency shipment of supplies to Darfur from Rwanda using two C-17 cargo planes. Another 240 containers of goods will be moved from ports into Darfur to help the fledgling UN-African Union peacekeeping mission.
That leaves me with two questions: Will the supplies do any good? And what exactly is the United States hoping to achieve?
First the supplies: The UN-AU hybrid mission is only at 63 percent of its strength, more than two years after the force was authorized, wracked with one difficulty after another (as if patrolling a space the size of France wasn't hard enough.) Cars and equipment have been stolen; fuel was siphoned from planes at night. Journalists have told me that Sudanese government forces are responsible.
But after months of quietly thwarting further deployment, the Sudanese government has finally swung open the door, "leaving the ball on the side of the UN," International Crisis Group Horn of Africa Director Fouad Hikmat tells me. It's up to UN member countries, particularly the U.S. which provides over a quarter of the budget, to handle the logistics of sending in peacekeepers. Will they be able to make a difference? Hikmat's read: "This is very very very good."
At first glance, it looks like President Bush is trying to cement his legacy as a genocide fighter. But if Bush is thinking Darfur, why meet with Kiir, a Southerner with little record in the region?
Country-wide voting is scheduled for Sudan this year -- part of a 6-year Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the decades long war between North and South Sudan in 2005. The light at the end of that long tunnel for Southerners is a vote on secession in 2011. If all goes according to plan, they'll vote on whether to remain autonomous, or become independent.
Like many Southerners, Kiir favors secession. But countrywide elections have to happen first -- and Darfur is in no shape to hold them. "[Southern politicians] for a long time weren't involved in Darfur, they were focused inward," Hikmat tells me. Now, they see they should become engaged because Darfur is a very serious threat to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement [and their secession vote]."
One more complication: the International Criminal Court may soon issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir. That makes Kiir the international powerbroker with the most credibility.
So Bush's and Kiir's interest may be right in line. For now. The U.S. should think long and hard about whether they want to back a secession, an outcome that Kiir favors and that Khartoum will certainly fight to prevent. It is an open secret that both South Sudan and the Khartoum government are arming in anticipation of the referendum in 2011. Yet another dilemma for the new President to look forward to.
Photo: Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images
In a pointed gesture, the U.S. Olympic team has voted Lopez Lomong, a member of the track team who gained American citizenship in 2007 after fleeing Sudan and spending a decade in a Kenyan refugee camp, as its flag bearer for the opening ceremony in Beijing.
Lomong was abducted at age six by militiamen looking to recruit child soliders. He managed to escape with two other boys and was grabbed by Kenyan authorities after he unknowingly crossed the border. Lomong was one of the 4,000 "lost boys" of Sudan who were resettled in foster homes throughout the United States in 2001. Lomong is also currently a member of the Team Darfur activist group whose cofounder -- American speedskater and Turin gold medalist Joey Cheek -- had his visa revoked by Chinese authorities two days ago.
Lomong's selection is certainly a touching gesture from his fellow athletes, and the Sudanese-American runner is ecstatic, saying that Friday will be "the happiest day" of his life. What effect it will have on U.S.-China relations is uncertain, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that China will not be able to hide from its Darfur policy simply by putting on the world's biggest fireworks show and wowing foreign dignitaries.
I would be absolutely shocked if the Olympics pass without some sort of dramatic protest or political statement from an athlete or group of athletes, on a podium or elsewhere. One English basketball player, formerly with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic, has said that Olympians have an obligation to speak out against China.
It may not be 1968, but that doesn't mean the gloves won't come off.
Earlier this month, the International Criminal Court charged Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir with genocide for atrocities committed in the ongoing Darfur conflict. Proclaiming his innocence, Bashir responded in the way that any peace-loving leader concerned over his citizens would -- by threatening to murder even more people.
The ICC's announcement was by no means binding. The United Nations Security Council has split over a proposal by Libya and South Africa to prevent Bashir's indictment. The United States, Britain and France appeared to be quite skeptical of this plan, but South Africa has argued that prosecuting Bashir would jeopardize African Union efforts at peacekeeping in the region. South African President Thabo Mbeki explained that the peace process "require[s] very serious input by Bashir" and said "it doesn't help at this time to be considering these indictments."
The only thing less surprising than South Africa's president trying to give a free ride to someone who has committed war crimes against his own people is that they're joined on this mission by the humanitarians in Beijing. China's envoy to Sudan warned last week that the ICC's steps and Bashir's indictment could imperil the peace process in Darfur.
This logic actually makes sense. Bashir, China, and passive African leaders have been instrumental in the implementation of Darfur's genocide, so it follows that they play an active role in solving it, and it's even more important that they avoid repercussions for their actions.
Well, somebody's willing to step up and defend Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, who was indicted for genocide last week. Yesterday, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described the International Criminal Court's prosecution as a colonialist effort to undermine Sudan's sovereignty:
Colonialist powers want to cut Sudan into pieces in their own ways, they want to prevent this country from having a constructive role in Africa and the Islamic world."
The comments were made at a meeting in Tehran with a Sudanese envoy who reciprocated his host's kind words by praising Iran's controversial nuclear program, saying, "This civilian technology would benefit the entire Islamic world."
I guess when you're under U.N. sanction, it can be hard to find someone who can relate.
If the International Criminal Court is about to issue an arrest warrant for you on charges of genocide, what might be the worst way to project an air of innocence to the world? Cue Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, whose strategy of choice in the face of international criminal charges is to threaten more violence.
Yesterday, Bashir's party issued a statement on state TV declaring that any indictment against the president -- which was issued this morning -- would cause "more violence and blood" in Darfur. Funny, since I could have sworn that Bashir has always claimed that he has no control over the atrocities there.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is not pleased about last weekend's brazen attack by Darfur rebels. It was the first time fighting has reached the outskirts of Khartoum not just in the bloody five years of fighting in Darfur, but in the decades of conflict in Sudan.
Why the enormous bounty? Perhaps Ibrahim's fighting words have Bashir concerned. Here's Ibrahim in an interview yesterday, according to the IHT:
This is just the start of a process, and the end is the termination of this regime...Don't expect just one more attack. This is just the beginning."
Bashir also cut diplomatic ties with Chad on Sunday, accusing Chadian President Idriss Deby, who is from the same tribe as Ibrahim, of backing the attack. This is going to get worse before it gets better.
UPDATE: If $250 mil sounds like an absurd amount (and it does), then that's because it is. When it was reported by the Sudanese state media yesterday, it came across as just another attention-getting ploy, and that if someone actually caught Ibrahim, Bashir and his cronies would make the bounty hunter an offer he couldn't refuse, and he'd go away with far, far less. But try three zeros less: Apparently, there was currency confusion in the Sudanese government. The reward of 500 million Sudanese pounds (the equivalent of $250 mil) was offered in new Sudanese pounds, according to state media. The country revalued its currency last year, and the new pounds are worth 1,000 times the old ones. But the information office came out today and said that they're using old Sudanese pounds for some reason, so we're talking peanuts for Ibrahim: $250,000.
She [Condoleezza Rice] can lick her elbow* if she thinks that Khartoum will kneel down to her conditions and accept pressure from her or the international community.
That's a quote from Nafi Ali Nafi, the advisor to Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in charge of the Darfur file. "It is not clear why the Sudanese official chose Rice as a target for fierce criticism using this slang language," the Sudan Tribune dryly notes. According to the paper, to tell someone to lick their own elbow in Sudanese is to describe "something that is very unlikely to happen."
European military commanders have formally approved an EU mission to Chad and the Central African Republic. The mission, to protect and aid refugees from Darfur, has a Security Council mandate and, by most accounts, could help stabilize a dangerous situation.
But there is a danger that France—and perhaps Europe more broadly—is developing a perverse specialty: cleaning up after crimes it doesn't have the will to stop. European peacekeepers labored for several hard years protecting humanitarian aid deliveries in Bosnia as ethnic cleansing proceeded around them. And remember that it was the French who sent a military mission to protect refugees after the Rwanda genocide. That mission, Opération Turquoise, saved some lives (including the lives of many who committed the genocide), but was a pale shadow of the rescue mission that should have been launched weeks earlier.
My fear is that the combination of feel-good war crimes prosecutions and post hoc band-aid operations like this new one in Chad have sapped the will to take the needed hard measures.
A torch relay is making its way around the world, but it's not the official Olympics torch relay. It's a torch relay to highlight Olympic host China's connections to Darfur, the region of Sudan wracked with genocide. The torch relay, sponsored by Olympic Dream for Darfur, the Save Darfur Coalition, and others, has already traveled thousands of miles through past genocide sites in Rwanda, Cambodia, and Armenia.
On Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, the torch arrived in Washington, D.C., to make stops at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the White House, and the Sudanese embassy before finally converging on the Chinese embassy, as shown in this photo. From left to right at the podium are: radio personality Joe Madison (a.k.a. "the Black Eagle"); actress Mia Farrow; Motasim Adam of the Darfur People's Association of New York; Mohamed Yahya, a Darfurian with the Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy; and Olympic medalist Joey Cheek.
The already beleaguered (if yet to be deployed) peacekeeping force for Sudan has drawn fire from an unexpected quarter. Jeffrey Sachs, head of Columbia University's Earth Institute, reportedly dismissed the peacekeeping effort as irrelevant yesterday:
You could put the peacekeepers in there, they won't change one iota on the ground in terms of the grim realities of the harshness of life in Darfur," Sachs said, pointing to the need for clinics, schools, electricity and water holes. "I'm not against the peacekeepers, I just find them a waste of money," he said. "Unless the rich world is going to promise $2.6 billion for the peacekeepers each year, plus $2.6 billion for development, I'd say keep your peacekeepers."
The implication is that Darfur is an economic development problem rather than a problem of noxious political leadership and calculated policy. I wonder how far this reasoning extends; what other mass atrocities should be deemed development problems that cannot be addressed absent a massive aid program? Taken too far, this kind of economic determinism will suck the life out of international efforts to combat mass atrocities. And it's not as if the world needs another excuse to look the other way.
It's hard to avoid the impression that the teddy-bear imbroglio in Sudan was a piece of elaborate theater designed to give Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir a chance to magnanimously pardon the offender and thereby chalk up some brownie points with the West. Just scanning the headlines, one would have the impression that Bashir has courageously faced down the mob that was baying for the hapless schoolteacher's blood. Bashir's spokesperson is certainly cultivating that storyline:
There was a political risk in this decision. Although the pardon is a presidential prerogative, because of the rising feeling and tensions that have been generated many Sudanese will see it as unfair to them and that it might encourage others to do the same.The president considered the intentions behind the actions when he made this decision [to pardon].
The wise moderate in the midst of extremists—it's not a bad image to have as frustration grows over delays on Darfur peacekeeping.
So, British teacher Gillian Gibbons is going to a Sudanese jail for 15 days for insulting religion by allowing her class of primary school children to name a teddy bear "Mohammed." (Since she has already served five days, she only has 10 left.) Gibbons escaped a far harsher potential punishment. If she had been found guilty of all three charges levied against her (the others were inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs), she could have faced 40 lashes and six months in prison.
British Foreign Secretary David Milband has already hauled the Sudanese ambassador into his office to express "in the strongest terms" his concern about her arrest. During their meeting, he also spoke on the phone to Sudan's acting foreign minister.
Will Prime Minister Gordon Brown also get involved? This case reminds me of the infamous Singapore case of 1994, when American teenager Michael Fay was sentenced to a fine and six lashes with a cane for vandalizing cars and stealing road signs. Two dozen U.S. senators wrote letters to Singapore asking for clemency. But it wasn't until after President Clinton complained to his counterpart in Singapore that Fay's sentence was reduced to four lashes.
At the time, Singapore protested that the United States shouldn't get involved with its domestic affairs. So far, the case of the British schoolteacher hasn't touched on the always-touchy issue of sovereignty, but will it? And should it?
It seems to me that in both cases, there's been a fair, but not necessarily satisfactory, result. In the case of Michael Fay, the laws were clearly laid out, the punishment was defined, and the sentence enforced, albeit at a softer level due to diplomacy. In the case of Gillian Gibbons, the laws may not have been laid out as clearly, but given the tensions between Islam and the West, Gibbons should have perhaps been more sensitive about what can be given the name "Mohammed" and acted more cautiously. Forty lashes and six months in prison—to say nothing of being shot, which is what some in Khartoum are calling for—would have been outrageous for an innocent mistake. But the fact that the Sudanese courts sentenced her to a few days in jail, given the alternative, seems to be an acceptable compromise that shows a modicum of respect for Sudanese sovereignty. Better yet would be if they would just release her right now and end this farce.
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