Hard road to peace after ICC indicts Bashir

Friday March 06 2009
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A woman chants while holding a poster of President al-Bashir. Photo/FILE

The arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir on charges of crimes against humanity and war atrocities announced by the International Criminal Court on March 4, 2009, has stirred a new political dynamic in Sudan.

A line has now been drawn between the transitional period of the years following the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and what might unfold in future.

Despite warnings that the announcement could provoke a political upheaval and renewed instability in Sudan, responsibility for the indictment and its consequences lies primarily with the National Congress Party.

They have aggravated the situation in Darfur, with millions uprooted from their homes and hundreds of thousands dead.

They have resisted calls to engage seriously in any reform of their centralised governance, and have used the machinery of state to serve their partisan ends.

In the period following the signing of the CPA, many had hoped that the inclusion of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) in the Khartoum government would help moderate — or at least provide a counter-balance to — the NCP’s chronic mismanagement.


But following the death of its leader John Garang in July 2005, the SPLM has not yet emerged as a genuine national opposition party.

Instead, the SPLM leadership retracted inward from national issues, in response both to the gravity of the needs of South Sudan, their stronghold, and to the NCP’s intransigence in implementing the CPA.

Now the SPLM are losing hope of a united new Sudan and are investing in stability only in order to achieve separation under the promised 2011 referendum on self-determination for South Sudan. As a result, the resolution of the war in Darfur remains in the hands of the NCP, the fox guarding the hen house.

In response to the indictment, the NCP has refused to recognise the ICC’s jurisdiction, mobilising Arab, Islamic and African countries against the court by pitching it as a Western instrument of regime change.

Still, they launched the Sudan People’s (Initiative) Forum to generate a national consensus around a solution for the Darfur crisis.

Recently, they tactically engaged the Darfur rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), in Qatar and signed an agreement of “Good Will” to negotiate.

But inter-tribal clashes and fighting between the government and rebel groups continue unabated, resulting in a growing number of internally displaced people.

In addition, tension is building on the Chad-Sudan border, where Chadian rebel groups aiming to oust President Idris Deby are re-energised, while the anti-Bashir Darfur rebel group JEM is on high alert.

With Bashir delegitimised by the indictment, the opposition parties might harden their position.

The NCP’s room for political manoeuvre and its ability to engineer national cohesion against the court’s action are narrowing. The reality is that the majority of Sudanese are fed-up with the state of instability.

The time has come for a more robust engagement to help resolve the crisis.

Equally crucial is the need to ensure all the political forces are part of any plan to bring peace.

For such a plan to succeed there must be international consensus.

To continue the momentum towards peace, the Sudanese government must recommit itself to proper and full implementation of the CPA and find a sustainable settlement to the Darfur crisis.

An incentive for President Bashir and his party could be provided: the UN Security Council can delay the ICC prosecution for a year.

Fouad Hikmat is the Horn of Africa Project Director of the International Crisis Group.