Friday, July 23, 2010

Regime Change in Sudan is Not the Right Way to Help Darfur

Regime change in Sudan is not the right way to help Darfur

Sabotaging the political process now under way will prolong the suffering

Khalid al-Mubarak
The Guardian, Friday 23 July 2010

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the international criminal court prosecutor,
claims that the "genocide is not over" in Sudan (Now end this Darfur
denial, 16 July). But was it genocide? Research published by the
Lancet has shown that 80% of conflict related deaths in Darfur were
due to diseases.

Moreno-Ocampo says President Omar Bashir is "deliberately inflicting on the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups living conditions calculated to bring about their physical destruction". In fact those displaced from these groups have moved to the main towns (where the army garrisons are). If the army was their tormentor, would they take refuge near its barracks?

Moreno-Ocampo uses the word "denial" very unwisely, because he is in denial. The conflict in Darfur is almost over. Even Eric Reeves, one of the most one-sided critics of Sudan, has admitted that the violence has diminished significantly in the past two or three years; and, he told the International Herald Tribune, "many, including myself, have been slow to recognize how significant this reduction has been". General Martin Luther Agwai, who led the Unamid force in Darfur, has stated that the conflict is over, and that Darfur suffers more from low-level disputes and banditry.

A political process is now under way, in Doha, Qatar; it has full
international support and is backed by the energetic retired general
Scott Gration, President Barack Obama's special envoy. This is where the help of the international community is needed. Moreno-Ocampo calls for something else: "Arresting a head of state", ie regime change. He wants to stop the efforts of the leader who signed the comprehensive peace agreement in 2005 and the Darfur peace agreement in 2006. In the whole article, Moreno-Ocampo uses the word president only once before the name of Bashir: this is because he was against April's Sudanese elections. Thus we see an unelected, unaccountable prosecutor targeting a democratically elected president and calling for his removal.

Paradoxically, Moreno-Ocampo is appealing to a UN security council in which the US, Russia and China do not recognise the Rome statute which created the international criminal court. Indeed, one month after the court was set up in 2002, the US Congress passed an act authorising the president to use "all possible means" to bring about the release of any US national detained or imprisoned by the ICC.

This court will never investigate Gaza or Iraq because it operates, as
its president, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, said to the UN general assembly in October 2009 "in a political world", with double standards. Moreover, the UN's own fact-finding mission in 2004 never found evidence of genocide.

Moreno-Ocampo is right, however, that "the Darfuris do not have the
luxury of time". So he should know that any actions designed to
sabotage the political process are not constructive and will prolong
the suffering. In his book about Sudan, Richard Cockett said Darfur
activism (led by the Save Darfur Coalition) that culminated in ICC
involvement misled the Darfur rebels into believing the US will invade
Sudan and hand them power. This prolonged the conflict.
Moreno-Ocampo's activism does the same.

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