Africa Matters is a blog that follows the news and offers analysis of African affairs. Our aim is to delve deeper into the issues of African politics and development. We don’t presume to be experts, and we don’t presume to have all the answers—we are just trying to ask the right questions.

Tuesday, October 14

Mixed messages in Darfur

The Sudanese government announced today that it has arrested Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, known as Ali Kushayb, a notorious leader of the janjaweed militia.  The International Criminal Court indicted Kushayb in 2007, for crimes against humanity, on the grounds that he "personally led attacks on civilians and ordered entire villages to be burned to the ground and the women in them raped," according to the New York Times.

The move looks like an attempt by Khartoum to barter for a suspension to the indictment against Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

At the same time, the government has been complicating the work of aid groups working in the Darfur region.  The International Rescue Committee reports, for instance, that Sudan's Humanitarian Aid Commission forced the organization to shut down its women's health, rule of law, and portions of its education programs.  The closure shutters 10 women's centers and safe spaces, providing emotional support, health information, and vocational and literacy training to 4,000 women; justice and confidence centers offering legal advice and referrals to 5,000 people per month; a human rights campaign that has trained 92,000 people; and child and youth centers in South Darfur running pre-schools for 3,700 kids as well as school courses and recreational activities for another 4,000 youths.

The IRC continues to run health, water, sanitation, and other educational programs in Darfur, as well as providing a range of services in North, East, and South Sudan.

This Janus approach may be an effort by Khartoum to showcase both what the West stands to gain by delaying the Bashir indictment, and what stands to be lost if Sudan withdraws even further.

According to government spokesman Rabie A. Atti, though, the arrest was merely "part of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s commitment to bring a final and comprehensive solution to Darfur.”


Anonymous said...

This is just a dog-and-pony show. Khartoum is not going to seriously prosecute Kushayb, and it's very unlikely the government will turn him over to the ICC for prosecution. Khartoum is just trying to buy time--to distract everyone from the allegations against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

These thugs are just manipulating the system, trying to undermine the ICC. If larger world powers, like the USA, would step up to the plate, the ICC could gain the power, respect, and legitimacy that it needs to bring justice to the world stage. Washington, though, is no better than Khartoum in this regard. Instead of pushing for international prosecution of war criminals such as the Sudanese intelligence chief Salah Gosh, who bears significant responsibility for the violence in Darfur, the U.S. has protected him from UN sanctions. Washington is using the public displays of deep concern for Darfur to mask the private relationships that the U.S. has nurtured with some of the worst criminals in the Sudanese regime as part of the supposed “War on Terror.”

There's a ton of info on this topic in this book that I've been reading. It's called Scramble for Africa: Darfur-Intervention and the USA, by Kevin Funk and Steven Fake. Definitely try to read it if you've got a chance.


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