The leopard will, if given half a chance, try to erase its spots, and pretend it is a gazelle. But that trick will not last long, and the other members of the animal kingdom will very soon discover that the spots were simply painted over to show a single-colour coat of a more benign quadruped.
That is what happens every time we see dictators and their acolytes grabbing power and assuring everyone who is sufficiently naïve to believe that they are doing what they are doing to ‘‘save the nation” from this or that other calamity, and that they will relinquish power “as soon as the situation stabilises.”
Those who believe in such hoaxes are mainly those who, having missed the spots which were painted over, also failed to notice the fangs and clawed feet.
What is happening in the Sudan is not any different. The protests mounted by civil society groups against the 30-year dictatorship of General Omar al Bashir succeeded in ousting one dictator only to make way for others in the form of the junta that stepped in to fill the void.
The stance taken by some of the military officers during the protracted Bashir ouster — desisting from opening fire on the demonstrators — could well have fooled some of us into believing that we are being taken care of by a safer and friendlier mammal.
After all, there was general agreement — Sudan as elsewhere in the world — that Bashir had indeed outstayed his welcome, if he indeed had ever been welcome.
The world was treated to a very rare phenomenon, something we were not used to: Negotiations between the protesters and the new military junta over the modalities for handing power over to a civilian, democratically elected government.
But soon all that changed, as those we had accepted as officers and gentlemen, suddenly snapped, got tired of listening to the demands of the civilians, and ordered the killing of scores of unarmed protesters.
Within a couple of weeks, the mild military commanders we had seen before had re-donned their spots, bared their fangs and unleashed their claws in a most frightening manner: The force they chose for these acts of mass murder were none other than the infamous Janjaweed, who had carried out Bashir’s killing in the Darfur province, for which he is still wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.
Though they are now styled ‘‘Rapid Response Force’’ they are the same Janjaweed in their sinister operations and murderous attitudes; even their former commander in Darfur, Mohammed Hamdan Dagolo, is still very close to the murder theatre, because he is the deputy chief of the Khartoum junta.
It is quite unbelievable that the self same man who should be in the Hague for crimes committed in Darfur is now in Khartoum, killing the same way he killed in Darfur. Even if his former boss, Bashir, is in jail.
I have always been an avid defender of the ICC, despite all the weaknesses it may have.
Much too often, those who oppose the international jurisdiction of the court would want us to believe that it targets only Africans, although, of course, that it has tried people from elsewhere.
But the sad truth is that there is no continent quite like Africa when it comes to our own rulers killing their people as if they were wildebeest.
It came again just the other day, when a spokesperson for the Khartoum junta was disputing the number of dead put out by civil society.
Without any sense of irony, the military man informed the world that the number ‘‘over a hundred’’ was erroneous, because according to him, ‘‘only 61 died.’’
If you went out into the Serengeti and shot 61 wildebeest in a day, I suspect some German zoological society would be up in arms. But Africans are different, I suppose, and our rulers seem to know that.
Yes, I think Bashir, Dagolo and all those who have been killing peaceful protesters in Sudan should be bundled off to the Hague to face their charges.
The African Union has suspended Sudan’s membership of the continental talk-shop, which is a positive move, though I suspect it may not last. Now, the AU will be doing us a great favour and do us proud if it facilitates the arrest of Bashir, Dagolo et al, and sends the lot to the Hague.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]