Muctaru's Blog

I am Muctaru Wurie from Freetown, Sierra Leone. I blog on a variety of subject from my homeland and most of my post feature well researched stories I do.

Why Should African Leaders Cooperate To Bring Sudanese President To Justice

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Some of the headlines coming from Africa recently have been more frightening from a human right perspective; women and children have been the most vulnerable in the lingering wars from Darfur to the war ravaged provinces of Congo. Alongside the massive recruitments of child soldiers, rape is now an accepted norm in almost all the conflicts in Africa. Girls and women of all ages have been roundly subjected to consistent abuse of their pride and decency, rape is now sadly a routine practice in these conflicts. And the saddest thing is that political and rebel leaders whose forces are clearly involved in these barbaric acts are turning a blind eye to these abuses. The level of impunity in African conflict is one of serious concern that should worry any human right activist, how long can our leaders continue to encourage and commit serious abuses and yet still manage to evade international justice when it is clear to the eyes of the world that very abhorrent acts are occurring right under their noses and area of jurisdiction or conquered territory in the case of rebels.

In 2005 when I wrote in an African newspaper ‘Why must Charles Taylor face justice’, I advanced several points which I believed made the former Liberian dictator and rebel leader culpable to face the Special war crimes tribunal for Sierra Leone because he clearly aided rebel forces that committed the most heinous war crimes ever committed in an African war. Today however, we have a serious situation in Darfur, Sudan in which there are visible evidences of ethnic cleansing and other serious human right abuses.

In a not too surprising ruling, the International Criminal Court was judged to have got it wrong when it decided that Sudan’s leader can’t be charged with genocide in Darfur, appeals judges said last Wednesday — an unprecedented ruling that could lead to President Omar al-Bashir’s indictment with humanity’s worst crime.

I was very happy for this appeals ruling, because in my view it puts other leaders across Africa on notice that the court will not hesitate at charging them with genocide if they discriminate against or abuse their own people.

The standard of proof the court used last year to dismiss three counts of genocide against al-Bashir “was higher and more demanding than what is required” in its statutes, appellate judge Erkki Kourula of Finland said last Wednesday.

Others hailed the ruling also; “Today’s ruling is hugely significant, as it could lead to the inclusion of charges of genocide by ICC judges for a sitting head of state and for the first time in the history of the court,” said William R. Pace of the Coalition for the ICC, a nongovernment group that supports the court.

The five-judge appeals chamber said the International Criminal Court wrongly concluded in March that there was insufficient evidence to charge al-Bashir with three counts of genocide for allegedly attempting to wipe out entire ethnic groups in the war-ravaged province of Darfur.

Instead, the court charged him with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for allegedly orchestrating a campaign of murder, torture, rape and forced expulsions in Darfur.

This is positive news for those of us who supports justice for victims of wars in the African continent, Al-Bashir, the first sitting head of state indicted by the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal refuses to recognize the court’s jurisdiction and has vowed never to surrender. But this is always the case for war criminals; they boast of their innocence in the face of their grave abuses and also use all their power and political propaganda to undermine the courts that attempts to try them. And this is my greatest fear. How long can we use Pan-Africanism to fool people, there is a general fear that international justice is being used to undermine the sovereignty of African countries and that argument has been bought by the majority of African leaders many of whom fear they might be next in what they perceive as a justice system being thrusted upon us by the west. But let us remember that majority of African countries signed the Rome Treaty of 1998 that set up the ICC, so why should we be harbouring such a fear in the case of Sudan when the people of Darfur continues to suffer. Are they not Africans? Janjaweed Arab militia with the support of Sudanese troops have not only been involve in murdering civilians and preying on them in refugee camps, but human right groups have observed the driving away of a substantial part of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups in Darfur over more than six years into the desert, where many have died of starvation. According to the United Nations says 2.7 million people have been driven from their homes in Darfur. This is clearly nothing, but ethnic cleansing like we saw in the former Yugoslavia in the early 90s. Those who oppose the extradition request by the ICC for the Sudanese leader should look at these figures and the suffering of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups and bow their heads in shame.

To make matters worse the Sudanese president expelled 13 international aid agencies working in Darfur in response to the charges, further compounding the humanitarian crisis in a region where 300,000 people have died since fighting broke out in 2003 between the government and rebels.

One thing I am happy about is make no doubt about this is that the indictment last March has already had an effect on Al-Bashir’s, it has further isolated his hardline regime. Since the charges were issued, the Sudanese leader has travelled to friendly countries but called off trips to nations where he fears he could be arrested and sent to The Hague. So he is already beginning to feel like a prisoner whose free movement are strictly limited, and that is even a victory for human right in Africa. This is also a clear message to our leaders and rebels alike that gone are the days when they can carry out any massive abuse or violation on their people and get away with it in the name of war. The ongoing war crimes trial in The Hague of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor who was also by the way indicted during his tenure of office as president of Liberia is also a very good precedent for international justice. And Al-Bashir should learn from Taylor, because from the moment he was indicted the world became a tighter place for him. Like Al-Bashir, Taylor was defiant from the start and used all types of label to brand the United Nations backed Special Court for Sierra Leone as a product of the west whom he accused of trying to colonise Africa once more. However many of us know that all Charles Taylor was trying to do was to whip up support from his fellow African leaders to support him and ignore extradition request by the court. We have been hearing this message for a very long time and it is hightime someone told our leaders they should start thinking about how history will judge them. We cannot continue to protect those who kill and subject our own people to massive abuses of their fundamental human rights. Enough of impunity in Africa, justice is all we need now.

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Written by Muctaru Wurie

February 9, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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