Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Is the new U.S. policy on Sudan the dawn of a new era of engagement with Khartoum?

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On Monday U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration announced its new Sudan policy after months of speculation and lobbying from those opposed to any positive overtures to Khartoum and those who said further isolating Sudan would derail years of peace efforts.

U.S.-Sudanese relations have seen many ups and down in recent years. U.S. sanctions were imposed in 1997 and the United States bombed a Sudanese pharmaceuticals factory in 1998. There was praise for a 2005 north-south peace deal ending more than two decades of civil war, but it was overshadowed by outrage over atrocities in the 2003 Darfur uprising where Washington accused Khartoum of genocide.

The new policy outlined broad engagement, although no direct talks with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur. Khartoum was offered unspecified incentives for tangible progress towards ending the Darfur crisis and implementing the 2005 north-south peace deal. But the government was warned of penalties for any stalling tactics.

Most analysts agreed the strategy was middle of the road with something in there to please everyone. The reaction from most sides of Sudan’s multiple conflicts was one of cautious welcome indicating that, at least for now, it was a good compromise.

Is the International Criminal Court unfair to Africa?

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African countries often complain about getting a bad press. They say there’s much more to the continent than war and poverty and starvation. Then there’s the huge coverage given to the International Criminal Court and the fact that all four cases the body is now considering come from Africa.

But what’s strange about the complaints is that the world’s poorest continent is the most heavily represented in the ICC, with 30 member countries. In the March 2009 elections for ICC judges, 12 out of the 19 candidates were Africans nominated by African governments. And Fatou Bensouda, the court’s Deputy Prosecutor, is from Gambia.

Trouble ahead for Bashir?

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Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has orchestrated a defiant response to international efforts to arrest him for war crimes in Darfur but this is seen as hiding vulnerabilities that could signal trouble ahead.

Bashir has been travelling in the region in defiance of the arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. His travels demonstrate the court’s inability to arrest him and have won support from Arab countries and at home. He has also closed down aid groups accused of helping the court and addressed a string of nationalistic rallies.

How long could it take for Sudan’s Bashir to be arrested?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is being sought for war crimes in Darfur. Judges at the International Criminal Court in the Hague issued his arrest warrant last week, but if he is indeed to be arrested, long would it take.   It could be a while, if history is any guide.   Slobodan Milosevic, perhaps the most famous of sitting leaders indicted for war crimes while still in office, was indicted on May 24, 1999 and arrested nearly two years later, on April 1, 2001. Milosevic, who was being tried for war crimes during the messy breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, died in 2006 before his trial ended.   Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia being sought for war crimes and crimes against humanity, was indicted on March 3, 2003 and arrested three years later on March 29, 2006. Taylor is currently being tried in the Hague by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.   Milosevic and Taylor were still in power when they were indicted and arrest warrants issued, but they were both out of office by the time they were arrested. And with the 65 year-old Bashir still holding a firm grip on power in Sudan, it could take even longer for him to be arrested.   The ICC Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, accepted as much, after Bashir’s arrest warrant was issued, saying it  could take two months or two years, but he would still face justice.   Bashir has made it clear that he has no intention of surrendering to the court, which he refuses to recognise.   If arrested, Bashir would most likely be held in the Scheveningen detention centre in the Hague, where Taylor is cbeing held along with other detainees being tried by the various international courts in the Hague. Most detainees say they are well-treated and comfortable in detention, but one complaint that seems to crop up is the Dutch food.

 

Will Bashir warrant worsen war?

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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.

Putting Africa on trial?

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Look down the list of the cases the International Criminal Court is pursuing – Congo, Central African Republic, Darfur, Uganda – and it doesn’t take long to spot the connection.

Of the dozen arrest warrants the court has issued, all have been against African rebels or officials. On Monday, the court begins its first trial - of Thomas Lubanga, accused of recruiting child soldiers to wage a gruesome ethnic war in northeastern Congo. Earlier this month, former Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba was in court for a decision on whether to confirm charges of ordering mass rape to terrorise civilians in the Central African Republic.

How serious is Sudan’s Darfur ceasefire?

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Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was in a jubilant mood when he announced to crowds of supporters that he was declaring a ceasefire in Darfur.

From his body language, you might have thought he had already ended the crisis and achieved his goal of avoiding a possible indictment by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

Will peace hold in northern Uganda?

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uganda_lra_woman.jpgDriving from Gulu town in northern Uganda to Kitgum, you’re struck by how normal it all seems now. People are walking up and down the main dirt road that connects the two towns, bicycles dodge potholes and passing cars with precision, and the occasional bus plows through, leaving billows of dust in tow. But before Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) signed a ceasefire in August 2006, the high bush grass and sparsely populated villages made good cover for ambushes, and easy access for rebels abducting new recruits. This road, now full of life, used to be almost empty, people had moved furtively and quickly from one place to another, always watchful, fearful of running into rebels, in a war that has claimed thousands of lives.

But more than twenty years since LRA leader Joseph Kony began his rebellion, northern Uganda is seeing the first effects of peace; both good and bad. Agriculture output is rising as people return to the fields — the north could become Uganda’s bread basket. At the height of the war, some 2 million people were forced from their homes. Now, the majority have returned to their villages or to transition areas. But, it hasn’t all been easy. In fact, many new problems are emerging. An outbreak of highly-infectious Hepatitis E has killed more than 100 people so far. Many northerners are returning to villages, which have rotted during the long course of the war. Aid groups say conditions were often better in camps than in home villages. Many residents are returning to areas with little access to clean water or good sanitation. And this breeds more disease and more suffering.uganda_lra_soldiers.jpg

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