ICC warrants + Sudan's president = toxic cocktail

Women supporting Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir chant slogans during a demonstration in Khartoum, against the International Criminal Court (ICC) for issuing an arrest warrant for Bashir March 4, 2009. Photo/REUTERS

A protest against the ICC and in support of Sudan's president in Khartoum, March 4, 2009.
Photo/REUTERS

I heard the news on Wednesday. After eight long months and huge amounts of money, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's Omar al-Bashir. Bashir has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity with his involvement in the Darfur conflict.

International human rights groups did a dance. Newspapers (including the Citizen) printed editorials praising the charges and all expressed their desire to bring Bashir to justice. On the surface, I understood their points. They are well constructed arguments.

But I still think they're wrong.

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Mind you, if you asked me four years ago, before travelling to the
area and meeting people there, I would have readily agreed with the
stance taken in the editorial. But experiences change us.

While I read the news that Bashir was finally being brought to
"justice," I felt uneasy, with one question that continued nag me.

Whose justice?

In Uganda, I witnessed the criticism that was levelled against the ICC.
I will say, in my opinion, when the ICC levelled indictments against
rebel leader Joseph Kony and four of his leaders in 2005, the results
were disasterous in trying to solve the conflict in Northern Uganda.

I have a sort of love/hate relationship with the ICC. On the one
hand, I understand why it exists. In reality, I see the problems that
it causes people on the ground.

The ICC began its investigation into Kony while peace talks to try and end the conflict in Northern Uganda -- led by Betty Bigombe
-- were in their infancy. When word of the ICC indictments came
through, Kony shut down the talks immediately and walked off. The ICC
indictments against Kony have made it very unlikely that he will ever
leave the area. And Kony continues his ready stream of abducting
children and murdering his own people.

Also, to the thousands of Ugandans who live in refugee camps in
terrible conditions, it seems justice is barely on their list of
concerns. They want to live again, to farm, to send their children to
school. They want enough to eat. They want the conflict to end. When
international prosecution gets in the way of that, well,
understandably, many disagree.

Prosecution -- well, that's all well and good for the international
community, but to many critics in the region, the ICC does very little
other than meddle in their affairs and prolong conflicts.

Will the incdictment in Sudan harm progress towards peace?

As of now, Bashir has kicked out the aid groups in the country, which could likely result in a humanitarian disaster

In order for Bashir to be prosecuted he has to leave the country.

Many people just want Bashir out. And thanks to the ICC warrants, he's not going anywhere for a long, long time.

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