As predicted, tensions are running high in Sudan following the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to issue an international arrest warrant for Sudanese president, Mr. Omar al-Bashir, the first of such warrants issued against a serving head of state. The move, highly criticised by the international community, could compromise peace efforts and also deal a blow to humanitarian aid in the volatile country.
Shortly after the announcement of the verdict, several foreign aid agencies received expulsion notes from Omar Bashir’s government. According to the Voice of America, the livelihood of some 2.5 million Sudanese, who depend on these agencies for agriculture, health, education and life-saving projects access, is at stake.
Humanitarian groups that have, reportedly, been affected by the decision are CARE, OXFAM, MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières – Doctors without Borders), Action Contre la Faim, Solidarités, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the International Rescue Committee, and CHF International.
Foreign agencies have also begun withdrawing their personnel from the oil rich eastern African country, as anti-western sentiments hit an all-time high.
Thousands of Islamists and supporters of Omar Bashir assembled in the centre of the country’s capital city of Khartoum chanting their support for the president “We love you President Bashir”, soon after the verdict from the ICC was announced.
Confirming his support for Omar Bashir’s vow to ignore the ruling, Mr. Mustafa Othman Ismail, Sudanese presidential aide, said that the International criminal Court is only one mechanism of neo-colonialist policy used by the West against free and independent countries like Sudan. But UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged Sudan to co-operate fully with all United Nations entities.
Before Omar Bachir’s indictment, the African Union (AU) the Arab League, France, Egypt and the United Kingdom warned that an arrest warrant would destabilise the country and compromise efforts made so far towards peace in Darfur. The AU commission chairman, Jean Ping, has been quoted as saying that, “We support the fight against impunity, but we say that peace and justice should not collide, that the need for justice should not override the need for peace.”
Egypt and the rest of the Arab world are reported to be very disturbed by the ICC’s decision and have demanded the UN Security Council to delay the implementation of the arrest warrant. They claim the arrest warrant will limit Mr. Bashir’s movement on the international scene, thus eliminating direct Sudanese participation in international efforts to find a lasting solution to the country’s political and humanitarian crisis.
The ICC panel of judges have ruled that Mr Bashir must answer to war crimes which include intentionally directing attacks against civilians, pillaging and crimes against humanity which include murder, extermination, forcible transfer, use of torture and rape. He is said to have caused an estimated 300,000 deaths in the six-year conflict with millions displaced from their homes. Darfur’s Justice and Equality Movement rebel group have hailed the decision as a victory for international law.