African business, politics and lifestyle
Will Bashir warrant worsen war?
Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has seen off other challenges in almost 20 years in power and there is no sign that he is going to give in to the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Some supporters of the court’s move hope it will eventually persuade Sudan’s politicians to hand over their leader in a palace coup, end the festering conflict in Darfur and do more to repair relations with the West.
But many signs point in the other direction, turning Bashir further towards allies such as Russia and China as he strengthens his hold on power.
Some believe the court’s decision could worsen the fighting in Darfur because rebel movements will be emboldened and because Khartoum will feel that there is no longer any point in trying to pander to the West.
There are also concerns over what it could mean for the 2005 peace deal that ended the two-decade north-south war – although officials from the semi-autonomous south have been quick to say, in public at least, that they are standing behind Bashir.
While Bashir remains in power, the arrest warrant means the West has lost one of its strongest negotiating cards with Sudan — the offer to normalise relations.
The new U.S. administration could still offer Sudan the carrot of removing the country from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. But early statements from President Barack Obama and his team suggest they plan a tougher stance on Sudan.
Some of the 30 African countries who signed the founding statute of the International Criminal Court may start reconsidering their involvement. Many states already feel the court’s investigations to date have unfairly targeted the continent.
And there is no sign that Bashir will be arrested. Despite the call from the ICC for all countries to implement the warrant, he plans to go to an upcoming Arab summit in Qatar and intends to join future African summits. While Qatar has not signed up to the statute, if Bashir were to get away with visiting a country that has done so it might seriously challenge the court’s authority.
Was it right for the court to issue the warrant against Bashir? Will it improve the situation in Sudan or make it worse? Could it end up undermining the court? What do you think?