Sudan’s Bashir tries to stall Darfur genocide ruling
The International Criminal Court said Monday that it will decide on March 4 whether to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir for charges of crimes against humanity and genocide.
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Critics of the ICC, and supporters of Bashir – and these two groups are not synonymous – argue that attempting to arrest Bashir now, in an election year, when relations with the former secessionist south and the rebellious Darfur region to the west, might simply make things worse for the Sudanese people. A Comprehensive Peace Accord between Khartoum and South Sudan could crumble if Bashir is removed from leadership.Skip to next paragraph
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The Darfur conflict – which has entered its sixth year with no end in sight – might be given new energy if rebels feel that there is no point in negotiating with a weak Khartoum government. A French aid organization in Darfur said Monday that two of its Sudanese staff were killed in a bandit attack.
Egypt's concern: regional stability
Opponents of the Bashir regime see the possible indictment as a victory against genocide. Any warrant is likely based on the Sudanese president's role in the deaths of more than 300,000 and the displacement of more than 2.5 million in Sudan's Darfur region.
But Egypt – which already hosts millions of Sudanese refugees in its borders – sees it as a potentially disastrous Pandora's box and a profound threat to regional stability.
"Egypt supports Sudan on the question of the ICC because it is very dangerous to the state of Sudan itself, not just to the regime of President Bashir," says Dr. Hani Raslan, an analyst at Cairo's Ahram Center and an expert in Sudan-Egypt relations. "Now that there is peace between the North and the South, Egypt does not want to see a return to a larger civil war."
While Mr. Mubarak is unwilling to come out too strongly in favor of a man many see as a war criminal, his government has nevertheless made it clear that it is strongly opposed to a possible indictment.
The Egyptian government has objected to what it calls the "politicization and selectivity" of the ICC allegations, in the words of presidential spokesman Suleiman Awwad.
Speaking to reporters before Sunday's meeting, Mr. Awwad warned that an indictment could lead to wider instability.
Egypt and Sudan have a long history of mutual entanglement. From 1899 to 1956, Sudan was jointly administered as a condominium of Egypt and the British Empire. Cairo remains an important ally for Sudan. It is a traditional leader of the Arab world, and as a strategic ally of Europe and the United States, it is an important bridge to the West.
"Egypt is important for Sudan," says Abdel Malik al-Naiem, spokesman for the Sudanese Embassy in Cairo. "On the issue of the ICC indictment, Mubarak has made a very good effort for us over the last two weeks, especially by telling [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy that Egypt will support Sudan in this matter."
Stability concerns a canard?
Prendergast and other observers argue that Bashir's day in court is just a matter of time, and that it will actually bring more stability to the region, not less.
"This will provide a major opening for peace efforts on Darfur, as the only real path to a deferred ICC case is if the government secures a peace deal with Darfur's rebels," says Prendergast.
"All the diplomatic sound and fury emanating from Bashir's palace these days signifies nothing," he says. "The arrest warrant will have severe repercussions. If he laughs in the face of international justice, he will join the likes of Milosevic and Taylor who similarly laughed at their indictments but who ultimately ended up in custody."