By Yilma Bekele (10 April 2009) When the prison guard shouts: Dead man walking! You step aside. The guard is warning people that the inmate walking by is on death row and he has nothing to lose by killing you. You just step out of the way and let the dead man keep his date with destiny.
The President of Sudan, General Al-Bashir, is a dead man walking. He has a date with the International Criminal Court (ICC). A year ago ICC warned the general that his actions in Darfur were a cause for concern. Human Rights Watch put him on notice. Amnesty international said Al-Bashir was abusing his authority.
General Bashir was intoxicated with power. The General with the brain of a foot soldier was not in any mood to listen to reason. He told his army full speed ahead. Scorched-earth policy of raping, killing and destroying villages was in effect. Why would he listen to a bunch of ‘liars’ bent on tarnishing his image?
He has friends. He is famous. He is the president of Sudan. He doesn’t have to listen to anybody. He has always said the western colonialists are out to get him. So what if they complain? General Bashir is smart. Now that he has oil, that he is rich. They want his oil and those greedy westerners will not lift a finger against him. Especially since his newfound friends, the Chinese, are not concerned with such trivia as Darfur or human rights, he is safe. That is right he will play his Chinese hand no one will touch him. Not to mention that he is also surrounded by good honorable friends. No one can ask for better criminal neighbors than Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt and Libya.
So ICC in its slow and deliberative process went ahead gathering information, interviewing victims and buttressing the case. There was no hysteria here. ICC knew this process couldn’t be hurried. Accusing someone of genocide, torture, and human rights abuse is a grave matter. Warning shots were fired for those who can hear. Close friends of the tyrant were briefed. The media was kept in the loop. Al Bashir due to his unsurpassed ability to bully the Sudanese people was not to be bothered by some prosecutor in far away Europe.
The African Union and fellow tyrants were recruited to warn the ICC of the dire consequences if an indictment was returned. Delegates were sent to European capitals to explain how democracy works in Africa. The Ethiopian Foreign Minster appealed to Turkey to stop this process. It was said that Africans have their own solution and it cannot be hurried. In the mean time Al Bashir kept busy by denying the scope of his crimes, accusing the court of lack of jurisdiction and insulting the prosecutor as unrepentant colonialist hell bent on interfering in the internal affairs of Sudan.
Thus, on March 4, 2009 ICC issued an arrest warrant for Al Bashir. The charges against the tyrant include:
So where do things stand today? Al Bashir is squirming like a cornered rat. He has showed his defiance by visiting fellow tyrants in the neighborhood. He has expelled NGO’s and aid workers from Sudan. The indictment still stands. The ICC has threatened to add new charges regarding his expulsion of aid workers. Al Bashir is vainly trying to show the support he has in Sudan by ordering, bribing, threatening the people to come out and march in his support. Too little too late.
In an interview with the BBC this is what fellow tyrant Meles Zenawi has to say:
Question: Why are African Union leaders turning a blind eye to the suffering going on in Darfur?
Zenawi: Well clearly there is in justice in Darfur and the AU recognizes that. But there are different methods of addressing injustice. There is the type that we saw in South Africa and everybody aggress that the apartheid system in South Africa committed crimes against humanity. Nobody I know of had opposed the African method of restorative justice and I do not see any reason why similar approach cannot be followed in Darfur. The thing is the crisis in Darfur is primarily a political crisis it is not a humanitarian crisis.
Question: You talk about the reconciliation process of what happened in South Africa but Darfur is a war crime and the war crimes trial suggested by the Sudanese government is a bit late in the day isn’t it?
Zenawi: Well the African Union is suggesting the indictment be differed for a year so that an already complicated peace process does not get more complicated….
You see what I mean. This is a perfect example of mixing apples and oranges to cloud the issue. The reconciliation process in South Africa took place after the Apartheid regime gave up power and authority. The De Klerk regime saw the writing on the wall and moved aside. The reconciliation process was put in place by the newly democratically elected government. Thus, to suggest such a process in Sudan while Al Bashir is in power with his army and security intact is bizarre and self-serving. Even in the South African process there were those that mentioned the weakness by pointing out that justice should have been a prerequisite for reconciliation rather than the alternative to it. Ato Melese’s so called ‘African method of restorative justice’ is another version of ‘revolutionary democracy’. It sounds cute but it is hollow inside.
Another proposal floated by the AU is to ‘differ’ the indictment for one year. I guess this is what you call not ‘unclear on the concept’. You just do not indict and un-indict at will. The indictment took place because there were irrefutable facts that showed a pattern of criminal behavior by the individual. You cannot put the genie back in the bottle. People have died, some have been maimed for life, villages have been burned and lives have been disrupted. You cannot undo the damage. What the Africans are saying is the tyrant has killed half a million so let us not upset him further so he does not kill more. It does not work like that.
This sort of suggestion arises due to the practice of using the courts for political ends in most of Africa. If memory serves us right that is the game the Ethiopian regime plays. Kinijit leaders were indicted for attempted genocide, attempt to forcefully overthrow of the regime and other charges. There was no proof, no witnesses and no case but it did not stop the regime to carry out the judicial theatre for two years while the opposition leaders were kept in jail. The two years gave the regime time to disrupt the party, exile it opponents and murder elected leaders. Ato Meles is asking a ‘deferral’ for a year so Al Bashir can do some more house cleaning.
Genocide Watch is calling on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate Meles Zenawi regarding atrocities committed in Gambella, Awassa and Ogaden. The massacre that took place after the 2005 election is still waiting for resolution. As was the case with Al Bashir the ball has started rolling.
The recent confiscation of coffee in collusion with the so-called ECX is further crime against our people. I see dark clouds hovering over the TPLF Empire. The danger of indictment, the inflation, the economic meltdown, lack of foreign currency reserves and general lawlessness in the country is a clear indication of a crumbling system on its last legs. The criminals are watching each other closely. There are those prone to panic and abandon ship. There are those who are unwilling to take the rap for crimes of the politburo. There are those ‘teletafe’ organizations nervous that they will be the first ones to be thrown to the hyenas at the first indication of trouble. That is the problem with criminal enterprises. It is each to his own. We are familiar with the actions of TPLF. No one is indispensable. As sure as the sun will rise up from the East tomorrow morning, Ato Meles will join Al Bashir in The Hague soon. I believe he is a dead man walking.
The writer, Yilma Bekele can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org