Monday, July 14, 2008


In case you haven't seen it on the news yet, the International Criminal Court (ICC), announced that they are going to present evidence to indict President Bashir and other senior gov't officials in Khartoum for War Crimes in Darfur. Nevermind that the Sudanese gov't refuses to hand over the two officials indicted by the ICC last year. Also, on July 8th, a group of UN peackeepers in Darfur were attacked - 7 were killed and 22 seriously injured. Nobody has claimed responsibility for it but the rumors are that even thoughthe government blames the rebel groups, the gov't themselves very well may have planned or at least known about the attack to warn the UN in response to the threats by the ICC.

In the end, although the ICC has good intentions and indicting a head of state has never been done historically, is a good outcome possible or even realistic? The answer to that is complicated, and is something that many of us struggle with. It is clear that the situation will not improve unless something changes, but if the choice is between a) taking international legal action against a despotic, fanatic, criminal head of state (who will most likely try to run) which risks the lives of tens of thousands of people who depend on the humanitarian aid provided by the UN, not to mention destabilizing the peace process, and c) continuing the long, slow, painful and dubiously successful peace process, what do you do?

Right now it seems that there there is no way things are going to turn out well, unless the ICC retracts their statement. The cynics here are saying that there's nothing interesting going on right now, so the UN has to justify their salaries by doing something, because they can't concentrate on China and for some reason won't concentrate on Zimbabwe/South Africa. It's hard to see connections and correlations and see the UN as one body when its policies/implementation is soooo scattered. As a result of recent events, the US Embassy has started pulling people out, UN is at security level III here so may start pulling out people soon too, and Darfur isat level IV in Darfur. However, none of the UN personnel in Juba are actually following level III protocol (they're still going to work, driving around in marked UN vehicles, etc) because no one has any clue what they're doing. There are more UN forces in the south than Khartoum, but the ones that are in Khartoum have a higher intel capacity. Yes, people are rioting in Khartoum, but the demographic of people that are the ones rioting don't exist here in Juba, so there's no problem.

Basically, because news of the ICC list leaked out, it destabilizes the whole UN presence in Darfur and the South. If the UN goes, so does all the humanitarian aid and many, many more people will die before peace comes again. Also, if Bashir throws the UN out of Sudan, that includes the South, since he is still technically President over the whole territory of Sudan. If he tells Salva Kiir, "I hope you got the memo about the UN being thrown out of the country" and Salva Kiir hesitates in complying, Bashir could be justified in making that an excuse to claim the South is engaging the North, and there goes the CPA and the peace process. Plus the SPLM (main political party in the South) is weak internally right now, so that doesn't help things one bit.

For some more background, this article by Alex de Waal (FABULOUS writer/reporter on all things Sudan) talks a bit more about the implications of the UN presence in Sudan.

Basically, it is a bit of a depressing time right now. Things are a bit of a mish mash at the moment and everyone is waiting to hear what will happen by Wednesday.

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