I thought that with the continuing conjecture about the decision to indict the Sudanese President I should say a few words. What I have written here will probably lead to accusations that I am an apologist for Khartoum, but nothing could be further from the truth. Anyone, who has heard me speak or read my opinions on Darfur and Sudan will know that for four years I have been arguing that the Sudanese government is responsible for the violence. I have made a case for viewing the janjaweed as merely an unfortunate and brutal distraction from the main game, which is insurgency and counter-insurgency in Darfur. Despite, the position I have taken in the past I believe the ICC decision is a grave danger to the security of the entire region, and should be rethought by the UN.
The decision of the International Criminal Court to seek the indictment of the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is puzzling to say the least. He may well be the head of a government responsible for a horrendous counter-insurgency strategy which has turned the western Sudan into a humanitarian catastrophe but the cost of destabilising Bashir may be far more than the ICC imagines. The result may well be the collapse of the Sudan into mass civil conflict between the Islamist radicals from the west, the conservatives who currently hold power and the southerners who will see the removal of al-Bashir and the collapse of the state as time for their independence, which will be opposed by the northerners.
Recent Arab League and African Union appeals to the ICC and the UN to reconsider their decision is a response to the fear that the Sudan implodes without al-Bashir. Since 2000, al-Bashir has gradually rebuilt Sudan’s regional and international reputation despite the ongoing crisis in Darfur. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended the decades of conflict between north and south Sudan was universally acclaimed. The Sudanese government’s assistance in the “war on terror” has also been welcome amongst its neighbours and by the US, and other western governments. The days of the Sudan as host country for the likes of Carlos “the jackal” and Osama bin Laden are now over and this has done much to rebuild the credibility of al-Bashir with his Arab and African neighbours.
To many in the region, the crisis in Darfur is an unfortunate side-effect of the struggle against radical Islam with many viewing the former Islamist power-broker in Sudan Hasan al-Turabi as responsible for the insurgency that intensified the violence in Darfur. Sudan is now a frontline state in the war on terror in North and East Africa and for the regional and international actors the decision of the ICC threatens what has been the most stable period in North Africa in recent times. While al-Bashir and his cronies deserve to be indicted for decades of human rights abuses, not only in Darfur, but also for atrocities committed against the Beja, Nuba, Dinka and many other groups in Sudan, removing al-Bashir may cause an Iraq like power vacuum and a regional meltdown not seen since the blackest days of the Cold War. I applaud the ICC for its moral stance but consideration of the stability of Sudan and its neighbours, on this occasion requires a different approach to bringing the violence in Darfur to an end.