Monday, April 27, 2009

Africans rally behind Sudan president

By Abayomi Azikiwe / Editor, Pan-African News Wire / Published Mar 12, 2009

Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir visited the North Darfur state capital of El-Fasher on March 8 in defiance of an International Criminal Court warrant issued for his arrest just a few days before. It was the first ICC warrant issued against a sitting head of state. As he addressed a rally of tens of thousands of supporters, the president defied the ICC and its imperialist backers.

The ICC had been threatening to indict al-Bashir for several months, ostensibly over the Sudan government’s handling of the conflict with separatist movements in Darfur, a region in the west. The ICC’s charges allege war crimes in Darfur, but interestingly enough do not include charges of genocide.

President al-Bashir drove from the El-Fasher airport in an open vehicle to the center of the regional capital. Thousands waved flags and photographs of the president while chanting slogans such as “Down, down Ocampo,” in reference to ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Other slogans included attacks on the role of the United States in the recent provocations against Sudan. “Down, down America,” the rally participants chanted.

Far from being isolated in this struggle with the ICC, Sudan’s government has support from the African Union and from the Arab League, as well as from the population at home.

Inside the United States, anti-war and anti-imperialist forces should also speak out forcefully against the indictment of the Sudan leader. The ICC and its imperialist backers have no moral, legal or political right to call for the arrest and prosecution of a sitting head of state on the African continent.

The countless war crimes committed over the last seven years in Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti by the U.S. and its allies have resulted in no investigation, let alone indictments, from the ICC or other so-called international courts based in The Hague in Europe.

The African Union, the organization that represents 53 independent states on the continent, said after a meeting on March 5 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that it would attempt to halt the indictment because it jeopardizes the ongoing peace efforts between the central government in Sudan and the Darfur rebel groups.

The ICC has mainly targeted former African governmental and rebel leaders, bringing on charges that it is biased in its approach to the interpretation of international law. Moses Wetangual, the Kenyan foreign minister, has stated that the activities of the ICC are “very suspect. Look at the manner in which they have handled African issues. It’s not just the ICC in The Hague, the application of so-called universal jurisdiction in criminal matters has been laced with some racial undertones.”

African Union, Arab League hit ICC

AU chairperson Muammer al-Qaddafi, who is also leader of Libya, told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that the “ICC decision of indicting President al-Bashir angered African, Arab and Islamic nations.” Qaddafi said that “the ICC decision is a direct violation of the sovereignty of small independent countries and interference in their domestic affairs.”

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, who met with Al-Bashir on March 7 in Khartoum to discuss the implications of the ICC arrest warrant, expressed the organization’s support for the Sudanese leader. Moussa had said earlier that the ICC action had provoked the “anger of the Arab League.”

Additional condemnation of the ICC decision came from the Arab Bar Union on March 8. A statement issued said “the decision lacks legal evidence. The ICC decision is illegal based on the fact that Sudan is not party to the ICC and thereby the court has no jurisdiction over Sudan. ... The ICC indicted Bashir while its prosecutor ignored atrocities committed by Israel on the Palestinian people. This is done despite the many calls for investigations into the crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians.” (Sudanese Media Center, March 8)

The statement urges all African, Arab and Third World countries to quit the court because it has become a tool of the United States.

Another legal structure, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, issued an arrest warrant against head of state Slobodan Milosevic in 1999 to increase pressure against the Yugoslav leader while U.S.-NATO bombs and rockets destroyed his country. Milosevic died under suspicious circumstances imprisoned in The Hague, Netherlands, in March 2006. Milosevic had forced the IFCTY to drop “genocide” charges and had just finished waging a strong defense that exposed U.S. and German imperialist aggression against the former Yugoslav Socialist Federation.

It is quite obvious that the U.S. and NATO powers are using the ICC to attack the Sudanese state for political reasons, just as they used the IFCTY in 1999 against Yugoslavia. Sudan, the African continent’s largest geographic nation-state, is an oil-rich country that has effectively banned U.S. and British oil corporations from exploiting its natural resources. Some 80 percent of the oil concessions in the country are carried out in cooperation with the People’s Republic of China.

Behind the ‘rebel’ movement in Darfur

In the aftermath of the conclusion of a civil war in the south of Sudan between the central government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in 2003, violence then erupted in the western region of Darfur. The Darfur separatist movement consists of several groups including the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A). Since 2003, the SLM and JEM have splintered into several other groups. The Sudanese government says this splintering has complicated its efforts to reach a workable peace accord with the rebels.

Support for the Darfur separatist groups has been advanced by elements within the United States. The New York Times has run numerous articles and editorials that seek to build public support for direct U.S. intervention in Sudan.

Many of the organizations that have played a leading role in the so-called “Save Darfur” campaign also support the State of Israel in its continued occupation of Palestine.

Over the last two years, a well-financed campaign has been waged to build anti-Sudanese sentiment in the United States. A documentary film entitled “The Devil Came on Horseback” features a U.S. military officer who went to Darfur ostensibly as a monitor with the African Union peacekeeping force. The film shows atrocities committed in Darfur and appeals for military involvement by the West in Sudan.

A Feb. 17 article published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that a Darfur rebel movement leader visited Israel for high-level meetings with Israeli officials. This article also illustrates the base of support that exists among European imperialist powers for the Darfur campaign.

The Haaretz article states, “Abdel Wahid al-Nur is the head of the Sudan Liberation Movement. While in Israel, he met with the senior [Israeli] official and discussed with him the ongoing conflict in Sudan.”

According to the article “Al-Nur came to Israel earlier this month at his own initiative, to attend the annual Herzliya Conference. He came with a group of European Jews, most of them French, who have been active on behalf of the Darfur refugees.”

This article goes on to point out that “Al-Nur fled to France in 2007 and has not been back to Sudan since then. ... In the past, he has spoken in favor of establishing diplomatic ties between Sudan and Israel, and a year ago, he even announced that his movement was opening an office in Tel Aviv, staffed by Sudanese refugees....”

Sudan gov’t stands fast

The rally in Darfur on March 8 came in the aftermath of a government decision to expel a number of non-governmental organizations from Sudan. The president accused the agencies, which are largely Western-based, of interfering in the internal affairs of the country and carrying out actions in support of the ICC.

President al-Bashir went on to say that “They [the ICC] speak as if they are the masters of the world, as if they determine the fate of all the peoples of the world. ... We will never hand over any Sudanese citizen. We will not kneel to them.” (Al-Jazeera, March 8)

At the same time, the government of Sudan has rejected a U.S. proposal to resolve the crisis. The U.S. has told the Sudanese leader not to stand for re-election in order to activate Article 16 of the ICC statute and halt the indictment.

The Sudan government has rejected this proposal as a blatant interference in the internal affairs of the country. The U.S. is not a party to the ICC either, and consequently has no right to suggest how the Sudanese government handles the current situation.

Since the U.S. intervention into Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti as well as Somalia, millions of people have been killed and wounded. Millions more have been displaced internally and as refugees. Any U.S. or British military intervention in Sudan would only create conditions disastrous to the people of this region.

The role of progressive forces in the U.S. should be focused exclusively on the transformation of the regime in Washington from a state based on oppression and exploitation to a government that supports the interests of the workers and the oppressed both domestically and internationally.