Posted by Kuku on 10:05 AM

Omar Al-Bashir has taken his first trip abroad to Eritrea. It is yet to be seen if he will take the longer trip to Qatar to attend the Arab League summit in Doha. It seemed as though he would have used the recent religious ruling to stay put in the Presidential Palace on the banks of the Nile, but he wanted to send another small slap to the ICC and its supporters. It is this arrogant attitude that, I think, will eventually lead to his arrest.

Source: AP

Posted by Kuku on 2:25 AM

Check out this clip from Aljazaeera English. It chronicles the story of a Sudanese living in New York and his support of the ICC on the day the arrest warrant was announced.

At about 1:30 in the clip, you can see the clashes between the Bashir and ICC supporters. It is quite embarrassing that the supporters of al-Bashir resort to violence, as the ICC supporters seemed to be protesting peacefully, until one man, starts a scuffle. Obviously the film doesn't tell the whole story, but I thought it was very interesting.

Here it is:

Posted by Kuku on 11:37 AM

The International Criminal Court has finally issued its long awaited arrest warrant for the Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir.

Source: SudanTribune

I'll get right down to my analysis...

The first thing that I noticed was the fact that the Court only charged him on two of three accusations, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The prosecutor did not get his third request for the crime of genocide. This is very telling. Both the first two crimes can be very easily proven and linked back to Al-Bashir, however, the third accusation (of genocide) cannot be as easily proven or linked back to the President.

Could this be seen as vindication for the Sudanese government and the President as to their claim that genocide is not taking place in Darfur?

I say yes! The mere fact that the prosecutor failed to prove to the judges that Al-Bashir should be arrested for genocide means that they could not prove (from the evidence provided by the prosecutor) that if genocide did occur, the President is responsible. This will be seen as a signal by the government as the inability of the ICC to prove genocide, and automatically claim that it is not taking place. The Justice Minister of Sudan claimed that this failure is proof of the weakness of the case against the President. This is more in line with the view held by the UN, which has yet to label the conflict genocide.

Also, the 'Save Darfur' crowd in the United States cannot be happier. In fact, they are using this opportunity to raise funds, as if this arrest warrant is all due to their so-called "advocacy." This is a snapshot of their website's home page taken after the arrest warrant was issued.

Along with most Sudanese I know, I am very critical of Save Darfur (et al.). They have been the strongest proponents of intervention in Sudan, something which will undoubtably exacerbate the situation for the worse. But I'll leave that for a later time.

The reaction in Khartoum by the government was almost instantaneous. After speaking with some relatives in Sudan, the situation seems normal and as one of my cousins put it, 'business is as usual.' People were expecting there to be a coordinated attack by the Darfuri rebel group Justice and Equality Movement , similar to the one that occurred back in May 2008. People also expected for general violence to breakout, but none of the sort has happened. That being said, people are very tense on the ground and anxious for what is to come. I think people are worried most about the implications on the North-South peace agreement (CPA) and the reaction of the southern government. Here are the positions of Sudanese most prominent political parties. Also, the government has kicked out several international NGOs, among them are OXFAM, Care, and Doctors without Borders.

Here is a clip of the scenes from Khartoum today:

Also, most government employees in Khartoum (I have been told) were given Wednesday off of work and were encouraged to attend the "maseera" (rally or protest) taking place. Tomorrow, they expect to hold a 'million man march' in support of the President. This event will, per Sudanese tradition, are filled with pomp, officials screaming at the top of their lungs, music, dancing and more music.

The implications of this arrest warrant will be greatest on the President himself. According to Ocampo, the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, even if Al-Bashir travels to friendly countries, his plane could be "intercepted" and he could be flown to the Hague. This is will effectively limit the President to remaining within the borders of the country, the only place where he is safe from arrest. This is reminiscent of reports a while back of the ICC attempting to intercept the airplane carrying another Sudanese official wanted by the ICC when he attempted to fly for Hajj in Mecca.

Finally, the implications of this move by the ICC for all of Sudan will have negative effects. It will further isolate Sudan and fortify its pariah status in the international stage. The move will make it almost impossible for the President to conduct official business as a wanted head of state. The best solution would have been to allow the government to save face and come to an agreement. This decision has come at a time when the government and the JEM signed an agreement, which has now been put in doubt.

"All the perfume of Arabia will not clear the dirt" created by the arrest warrant. - Abdel-Mahmood Abdel-Haleem, Sudan's Ambassador to the United Nations.

Posted by Kuku on 8:12 PM

Well, it is only an 'agreement of understanding' -- something that will lay the groundwork for peace talks that will hopefully lead to a peace agreement between both sides. Among other things, the agreement outlines a prisoner swap between the government and the Justice and Equality Movement. These prisoners would undoubtedly include those captured after the brazen JEM attack on Omdurman by the Sudanese government. One of those detained is the brother of Khalil Ibrahim, the commander of the JEM. According to AlJazeera, the prisoners would be exchanged in several batches, leading to the peace talks that would be held at a later time.

This is a very serious and positive development. For some reason, I believe these peace talks will lead to a more robust agreement, unlike the failed and moribund Abuja talks that led to the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement. I think this will be mainly because of the location and the organizers. Holding the peace talks in Doha, Qatar, a major Arab capital, under the auspices of the Qatari government, the Arab League, African Union and the United Nations, forces the government to take the talks, and any resulting agreement, very seriously. If they renege or back away from the agreement, it will not be very convincing to claim that the mediators or the venue were not fair or unbiased. It will be much harder for them to blame the Qataris than it is for them to blame the Americans (the main architects of the DPA) for anyof the agreement's (potential) shortcomings.

Here is a two part "Inside Story" program that focuses on the Doha talks.

There has been some major progress in Doha, Qatar. The Sudanese Government, represented by Nafi Ali Nafi, held face-to-face meetings with the leadership of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), led by Khalil Ibrahim and is working on signing an 'agreement of good intentions'.

Posted by Kuku on 7:01 PM

The arrest warrant against the Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir seems to be imminent. The New York Times is reporting that the arrest warrant has been approved - but it seems the ICC is keeping it underraps as per this SudanTribune article. This could be a ploy by the ICC to keep the arrest warrant a secret, allowing them to arrest the President if he decides to go abroad and visit one of the member states of the Rome Statute, the agreement that created the court, without having publicly announced the arrest warrant. Or, they can simply still be in the process of working out the final details. Only time will tell. All the while, 'negotiations' between the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the government are taking place in Doha, Qatar. 

No one knows what (if any) tangible effects this arrest warrant will have on the peace talks and the situation in Sudan as a whole. Some, like Alex de Waal believe this could lead to a very dangerous situation

In my opinion, the effects of this indictment are going to be very serious. The reality is that the Khartoum government, led by Al-Bashir, has shown very little commitment to the peace process in Darfur and has been lagging on the implementation of the CPA. The indictment could have been postponed for a renewable one year period, under the behest of the UN Security Council. This possibility of postponing the arrest warrant (which is all but gone now) was the only incentive pushing the government to sit down with the same group that brazenly attacked Omdurman only last year. Without this incentive, the government will feel hemmed in even more and have no impetus to take serious action. 

Also, this arrest warrant has emboldened the rebels and given them more clout, especially for the ongoing negotiations in Doha. This is evident by the recent defiant warning by Khalil Ibrahim, the leader of the JEM, who claimed that if Al-Bashir does not hand himself over to the Hague-based court, the rebel group will arrest him personally and hand him over. This is obvious posturing and is very unhelpful, further isolating the hope for peace. 

If the arrest warrant goes ahead and is publicly announced, this will be a major setback for the NCP and could be the crippling blow many of the regime's enemies have been waiting for. It could set in motion a series of domino effects that could lead to the unravelling of the CPA, the further inflaming of the war in Darfur and the eventual breakup of the entire country. This is a very bleak outlook, but, it is unfortunately very plausible. 

Posted by Kuku on 12:20 PM

The United Nations is becoming more and more ineffective in Darfur, as the Sudanese government continues to undermine the peacekeeping operation there. Khartoum is proving its unwillingness to achieve peace. Obviously, the rebels share some of the blame for the recent escalation in violence, but it is Khartoum's responsibility to achieve peace, by agreeing to the demands of the JEM (et al.). 

Here is a video from the BBC of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaking at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa. 

Posted by Kuku on 10:44 PM

Apparently the plan to relocate the displaced Palestinian population near the Iraq-Syria border is finally coming to fruition. Reuters is covering the story here. I also wrote about this story a while back, read this and this.

According to Refugees international:
 Approximately 34,000 stateless Palestinians have lived in Iraq since 2003. Since the beginning of U.S. military operations in Iraq, many suffered persecution at the hands of the Iraqi government and other armed groups. More than 3,000 fled to the Syrian-Iraqi border, where they live in makeshift tents in the desert with limited access to basic services. Syria refuses to allow them to enter its territory and only a few have been resettled, mostly to Sweden and Chile.
I simply cannot understand the logic behind this decision. The Sudanese government (i.e. the ruling NCP) has decided it wants to help by providing pre-built shelters to these Palestinians. This is outrageous and seriously sickening. It is a slap in the face, to every Sudanese man, women and child! Not only is the NCP refusing to provide these same facilities to the citizens of the country, the rightful owners of the wealth and land, they are refusing to stop the active war against those same civilians in Darfur. They will do their best to condemn the recent Israeli offensive in Gaza while at the same time continue an arguably more brutal war under their own sovereign territory. Additionally, this government has made it clear that it does not want to pursue peace, justice, and the rule of law. 

Indeed, these Palestinians deserve a dignified resettlement. If Syria, the country most suitable to accept this displaced population, has refused to accept them, why should Sudan? There are tens of thousands of Sudanese citizens who have been forced to flee their homes and live in makeshift camps in and around the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. These people are denied their most basic rights, and are forced to live in the most humiliating circumstances. Basic amenities such as electricity, running water and sanitation are not provided.

Unfortunately, the NCP has been successful in squashing any opposition to their rule. If this happened in the pre-NCP Sudan, thousands of people would have taken to the streets and protested this action. I think the only group who is in a position to stop this great injustice is the SPLM. They supposedly share part of the power in the Government of National (dis)Unity. May must stop this resettlement process from occurring, at the highest levels of government. It is mainly their constituents  which have been forgotten and quarrel in these camps. They must make it clear to the NCP that they oppose this decision and work actively to stop it. 

Do not get me wrong, I have a lot of sympathy for the Palestinian people. However, Sudan is one of the last places where they should be resettled. It is obvious that the NCP does not care about the suffering of the Palestinians. They are only trying to convince their Arab "brethren" in Damascus, Jeddah and Cairo that they care. What they really need to do is to provide for the orphans of Mygoma, the millions displaced in Darfur, and the majority of Sudanese who live in squalor and poverty.

Posted by Kuku on 12:47 AM

Earlier this month was the fourth anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Alex de Waal, as always, has a brilliant piece on the CPA and its current status, vis-a-vis its implementation and future prospects.

(Source: Sudan Tribune)
 Both the parties to the agreement, the NCP and SPLM have arguably failed in several key protocols of the agreement, with most of the blame laying with the NCP. It seems more and more unlikely that the most critical part of the CPA, the national (democratic and free) elections that are to be held in 2009, will take place. These elections are critical for the survival of Sudan as it stands today. Both parties must work hard, along with international pressure, to hold these elections (with some compromise on the situation in Darfur). Without a democratic transition, the real peace dividend of the CPA, the agreement is dead. There have been speculations that the SPLM might unilaterally secede from the north, which is undoubtably one of the worst case scenarios. 

Additionally, the imminent arrest warrant for President Al-Bashir remains a very contentious issue. Like always, only time will tell.

Posted by Kuku on 12:04 PM

Anyone familiar with Sudan knows that the Bush administration has taken a soft (more diplomatic) approach towards the country. It has, in fact, played a critical role in drafting the peace agreement (CPA) and pushed the two parties to end the southern civil war. With regards to Darfur, the furthest the bygone administration had done was to label the conflict "genocide" and had done very little substantially, save on the humanitarian front.

The new administration, headed by Barack Obama, with his obvious link to Africa, has hinted it will take a different approach to Sudan and its ruling party, the National Congress (NCP).

As of right now, we have very little to go by that will tell us what the new administration's policy towards Sudan will be, but we do know what public positions of the persons Obama has appointed to his national security team profess.

The Washington Post has a great article detailing the new administration and the effects it will have on Sudan.

Vice President - Joseph Biden:
Mr. Biden was one of the most vocal senators on taking action in Darfur. He has, on several different occasions during the campaign, called for the use of force, stating that he “would use American force now” if he could. I don’t know if this was a serious policy position or just another campaign promise that would go unfulfilled.

Secretary of State - Hillary Clinton:
Mrs. Clinton is in favor of placing a no-fly-zone, enforced by NATO, which will make it impossible for the Sudanese government to fly over the entire region and bomb civilians and rebels alike. She was also a big proponent of UNAMID.

US Ambassador to the UN - Susan Rice:
Ms. Rice is also in favour of a no-fly-zone. She has also advocated for NATO air strikes against the Sudanese military and the imposition of a naval blockade on Port Sudan, the country’s only water link to the world, and the main port that allows Sudan to export its oil. This would most certainly be a crippling move against the government, and perhaps the entire population, cutting off crucial trade. I am most certain that this option is off the table, as major world powers (China et al.) would not abide by it. She has also recently spoken about the "ongoing genocide" in Darfur, hinting that the Obama administration will keep the label given by the previous administration.

Secretary of Defence – Robert Gates:
Obama has kept Gates, Bush’s current secretary of state to stay on in his current capacity. Gates has not been at all vocal about Darfur, but has said that the US would not provide helicopters to the UNAMID troops in Sudan, citing the current US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

National Security Advisor – James Jones:
Jones is only in favor of NATO playing a support role and not having any sort of heavy military presence in the region.

Only time will tell how the Obama administration will deal with Darfur and other African issues as a whole. He, being of African descent, is expected to do a lot for the Continent. I hope he takes a pragmatic approach, dealing with this issue as a Sudanese issue, a part of the greater national problem, rather than an isolated conflict. If he does not do that, then he will be doing Darfur, Sudan and Africa a great disservice.