War crimes charges rattle Sudan
The World Court could soon issue an arrest warrant for President Bashir on charges of genocide.
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"It is accelerating the internal contradictions within the regime, to really spill out between those who are of a pragmatic nature, who want to be part of the world order and not face an environment of constant crisis and sanctions; and those in the regime who are very defiant and want to have that type of confrontation because they believe it reinforces their hold on power," says Mr. Baldo.Skip to next paragraph
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"It's too strong to say the National Congress Party is plotting against Bashir. But people are pondering ways out," said another Western diplomat, who requested anonymity. According to this diplomat, influential members of the ruling party – namely Taha and Nafie – are debating whether they should, in the case of an indictment, offer Bashir up to the ICC. For his part, Bashir is debating whether he could simply place them under house arrest and rule with the support of the military.
Could an arrest warrant trigger war?
A larger concern is the effect the indictment would have on the 2005 peace deal that put an end to more than two decades of civil war between north and south Sudan. That war killed close to 10 times the number of people who are estimated to have died in Darfur and threatens to restart at any time.
The deal calls for elections in 2009 and a referendum for southern secession in 2011, but those timelines – ambitious to begin with – will be even more difficult to meet in the case of an ICC indictment.
"The problem we have here in South Sudan is what would happen to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement if Bashir is charged by the court?" Salva Kiir, Sudan's vice president and president of the now semiautonomous region of Southern Sudan, was quoted as saying in the local press. "What about the outstanding items in the peace agreement? Will they be implemented afterwards?"
In November, Edmond Mulet, UN assistant secretary-general for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council the warrant could derail the north-south peace process and said he was "concerned by suggestions of an uncontrolled reaction to an indictment by the population against the [UN peacekeeping] mission."
Another concern among many expatriates is an outburst of violence or attacks against them following an ICC indictment.
Last week, state media quoted the head of Sudan's security and intelligence apparatus warning that attacks by "outlaws" against "aliens" could not be ruled out.
Embassies, the UN, and nongovernmental organizations have beefed up security and are making contingency plans.
"We're planning for everything from [the government] carrying on normally to expelling the UN, rioting on the streets and killing of foreigners," one aid worker said.
A 'third way'?
These worst-case scenarios have led some actors to look for other options – a middle path that could achieve accountability without destabilizing Sudan.