Sudan's war criminals: Lessons on how to get away with murder

The burning of Um Ziefa in Darfur, Sudan in 2004. Brian Steidle for USHMM.
The Sudanese government has played a masterstroke in evading accountability by convincing the United States to remove sanctions in return for its cooperation in an Arab coalition fighting terrorism in Yemen, while at the same time driving the campaign accusing the International Criminal Court of targeting Africa, writes Osman Naway, a Sudanese-American human rights activist and blogger. The result? Victims of atrocities in Darfur are losing hope in the international justice system.

The fourth of March is considered a landmark date for the victims of Darfur Genocide in Sudan. It marks the beginning of the long awaited hope of justice. The light of hope was first sparked by the United Nations Security Council resolution number 1593 on 2005, which decided to refer the case of the war crimes in Darfur to be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC). On the fourth of March 2009 the ICC issued the first arrest warrant against the sitting president. The warrant issued to demand the arrest of Omer AlBashir the Sudanese president, and accused him of committing war crimes that amounts to genocide against the people of Darfur. In result, the victims of AlBashir crimes in Darfur and other regions in Sudan felt hopeful. They thought for a while at least, that they were not standing alone facing one of the world's most murderous regimes in our modern times.

Unfortunately, eight years later the hopes and dreams of the people of Darfur are being shattered. More sadly, that the same international institutions which defended the Darfurians rights before, they allowed their killers to get away with their murders and war crimes. In 2010 the general prosecutor of the ICC added a new list of charges against AlBashir and members of his government, one of these charges is dooming Omer AlBashir as the worst war criminal of the twenty first century and accusing him of committing Crimes Against Humanity. Omer AlBashir became the president of the unfortunate country of Sudan in 1989, following a military coup backed by the Sudanese version of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamic militarized regime imposed Sharia laws on the whole country, and waged Jihadi wars on the African, Non-Muslim and non-Arab groups in Sudan. The war in Darfur was the last in a chain of nonstop military attacks against the regions inhabited by the African ethnicities of Sudan. The period from 1990 to 1995 witnessed a Jihadi campaign in South Sudan and Nuba Mountains in the middle western part of Sudan. More than 5 million South Sudanese were forced to flee their villages and became internally and externally displaced, another half million Nuba people were derived out of their homes to live in closed camps.

According to rights organizations and the United Nations, more than one millions were killed in South Sudan in the early 1990s. Another one hundred thousands were killed in Nuba Mountains during the Jihad campaigns. By the early 2000s the international community started to put pressure on the Sudanese regime, and forced the government to sit down for peace talks. Five years later on 2005; the Sudanese government was persuaded by the American and European countries to sign the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the Sudanese People Liberation Movement, which was fighting against the Sudanese regime in Southern Sudan and Nuba Mountains.

The Sudanese regime was not less active on the regional and international level. It had been playing a leading role in supporting terrorist and radical Islamic movements since it had seized power in 1989. The most wanted men in the world, from Bin Laden to the leaders of Hamas and Hezbo Allah, they all found refuge in Sudan in the early 1990s. These terrorism actions led the United States to label the regime as one of the terrorist supporting states. In 1997 the Clinton administration officially placed Sudan on the list of the terrorism supporting states, and imposed heavy economic and military sanctions on Sudan. After the war in Darfur started in 2003, the Bush administration started looking at ways to impose more sanctions on Sudan to limit the regime ability to commit more crimes in the region. New Economic sanctions were imposed on Sudan in 2007, which asserted the previous ones.

The peace agreement with the Southern Sudanese in 2005 was part of the deal between the regime and the USA with other European countries, where the regime will agree to sign for peace under the USA promises to lift the sanctions. But the continuous atrocities in Darfur prevented the implementation of this deal, or at least that what appeared to the observers. More likely, that the American administration wanted to delay the lifting of the sanctions to make sure that the Sudanese regime will implement the peace agreement conditions, including a smooth referendum and potential separation of Southern Sudan. The Sudanese regime went with the flow and implemented the referendum and facilitated the separation of South Sudan. By the ninth of July 2011 the Southern Sudanese celebrated their independence, but on the other side a new war erupted in Nuba Mountains, the twin region of South Sudan which was not given the same right to self-determination in the 2005 peace agreement.

In Darfur the war has never stopped, neither after the peace agreement in 2005, nor after the ICC arrest warrant. During the last 15 years the atrocities in Darfur continued, and nothing was able to relief the pain of the people there. Since 2011, the people of Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions joined this endless misery. 1.2 million people are affected by the war, while  another half million are living under man-made famine, as the Sudanese regime denied them humanitarian relief. On the other hand, the international community remained silent, and almost helpless in the face of the growing atrocities of Omer AlBashir and his regime. Third of the country's population are living under conditions of continuous insecurity because of their own state.

After the separation of the South, the Sudanese regime announced the rest of Sudan to be pure Islamic and Arabized state. As a result the Arab countries, especially in the Gulf region, became more interested in Sudan. The 30 years old dictatorship of AlBashir survived the Arab spring, mainly because the country was at war with its people for decades. Therefore, Sudan did not need the Arab spring to turn the country to a failed state or to divide its peoples and start a civil war, simply because it had all of that going on already.  Surprisingly, Sudan emerged as stable country in comparison with the mess in the region, either in Libya or Yemen or Syria. The 30 years long experience in managing state-driven wars, and committing war crimes and genocide, made the Sudanese regime the new expert and the hero of these tragic times. The emergence of ISIS, and the war with Iran supporters in Yemen and Syria also made Sudan an important intelligence partner for the Gulf countries and the west. This new partnership is built on the fact that the Sudanese regime was the closest friend of Iran in the region for 25 years.

The well trained killers of the Sudanese army were taken to fight in Yemen, as a part of an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and UAE to fight the Huothi. This new coalition bought the Sudanese regime a new life, as the Gulf money started pouring into the empty government accounts. But the best deal the war criminals of Sudan made was to push the Gulf countries to urge the United States to lift the sanctions on the regime. On the other side, the Sudanese regime rallied the African countries to renounce the ICC demands to arrest Bashir. They succeeded in marketing the idea that the ICC is targeting African leaders, and accused it of discrimination against Africans. Omer Al Bashir famous visit to South Africa was the most remarkable incident that proved the importance of the ICC arrest Warrant.  When the president Zuma conspired with the Sudanese security and refused to arrest Bashir and allowed the man to leave the country, the South African government had broken the dreams of finding justice for thousands of AlBashir victims.

The Sudanese war criminal made a major victory on December 2016 when the Obama administration decided to conditionally lift the sanctions against the Sudanese regime. This decision was justified mainly by the regime cooperation in antiterrorism combat.  The Trump administration was given the chance to reverse the decision if Sudan did not stop the war on its people. But what the Obama administration decision did, was far more than just sanction lifting, it is actually a permit for the Sudanese war criminals to remain in power. It’s an evident that they are able to play the international system and get away with their crimes and mass murders and genocide atrocities without punishment. The people in Sudan and especially in Darfur are losing their hope in the international system of justice. This lost hopes and shattered dreams will eventually create more desperation which means more wars and violence in Sudan. If this ignorance of the need for justice for the people of Sudan continued, the international community will be responsible of setting free one of the most murderous criminals of our time.

 

Osman Naway is Sudanese American human rights activist and blogger.

Twitter: @OsmanNawayPost

Previously published articles: