Opinions & Features February 18, 2020 at 10:00 am

Why did Sudan agree to send Omar al-Bashir to the ICC?

Nii Ntreh February 18, 2020 at 10:00 am

February 18, 2020 at 10:00 am | Opinions & Features

Omar al-Bashir, former president of Sudan.

Sudan’s transitional government is ready to hand over the country’s former dictator, Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The decision to send over to The Hague the man who ruled Sudan for 30 years, was reached during peace talks between the government and rebel forces in Darfur last week.

Bashir is accused of orchestrating the infamous Darfur conflicts that took the lives of more than 300,000 people in a little over a decade.

The BBC quoted a spokesperson, who said the government is doing “what the Sudanese people asked us to do”. The spokesperson, Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, also added: “Justice cannot be achieved if we don’t heal the wounds.”

What is thus clear is that Sudan’s current government, a compromise body as part of the fallouts of 2019’s angry protests that deposed Bashir, are feeling the pressure of what it means to look forward.

Despite the fact that there is speculation about the willingness of the military to acquiesce to handing over Bashir, Sudan’s government believes there is no other path to peace.

In December last year, the government sentenced Bashir to two years in prison for corruption. He was specifically committed to a reform facility.

But the sentence was overwhelmingly derided for not being punitive enough. The conclusion picked up by the government, therefore, was a massive thirst to see Bashir in a steeper situation.

As the Japan Times reported, the decision to send Bashir to the ICC was greeted with excitement and anticipation in the war-ravaged region of Darfur in western Sudan.

If one thought the sentiments were localized to the region that saw the worst of Bashir’s reign, one would have to rethink what may be a cynical belief.

The protests that pushed him out of power was a near-universal campaign that persisted for months in spite of ferocious and deadly backlash from the military. In the end, the people without guns prevailed.

If Sudan’s government is responding to populist sentiments, the response cannot be viewed apart from another question: is Bashir at the ICC the best way forward for Sudan?

A slim majority (34) countries are signatories to the Rome Statute that established the ICC. However, across the continent, belief is rife that the body tends to be more laser-focused on the evils of Africans than others.

The skeptic’s critique of the impartiality of the court is both an ideological and political argument about how Africa has been made the whipping boys for others to feel good about themselves.

In view of this, some are already calling on the government to rescind its decision and try Bashir in Sudan. But this opens up another debate on the capacity of Sudan’s judicial process to see this through.

That may be a tall order for a country whose judicial service was also partly indicted by the public opinion that pushed out Bashir.

For the Sudanese government, the ICC looks like an option that takes Bashir out of the picture for a while so that other things may be focused on. But it also cannot afford to short-circuit the country’s future.

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