So the government of Equatorial Guinea is saying that Nigerian rebels were the ones behind the mystery assault weapon attach on the presidential palace yesterday. For now nobody really know who the attackers were. It is not clear what the motive of the Nigerians was in attacking president Obiang’s palace. Whoever they are I think the attack should be a wake up call on Mr. Obiang, the kleptocratic autocrat who has been running the tiny central African state since 1979. His rule has been bad news for most equatorians. The country is Africa’s third biggest producer of oil – after Angola and Nigeria – and should not have the high poverty rates that it has, especially considering that it only has just over 600,000 people.
In other news, it appears that one of the rebel groups in Darfur, the Justice and Equality Movement has finally agreed to a deal with the Sudanese government. This is welcome news. I hope the news will make the ICC slow down in its efforts to try al-Bashir for war crimes. I am not fan of the genocidal buffoon that is Mohammed al-Bashir but at the same time I think that attempts to arrest him will only make him dig in and reverse the progress that the opposition and civil society groups have made in terms of increased political space. Also, the deal does not necessarily mean an end of hostilities since not all the rebel groups in the western Sudanese province have signed on it. The conflict in Darfur has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced over two million.
Today I sat in at a conference on Darfur at my school. The conference was well attended, the keynote speaker being Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. There were the usual talking heads from the UN and a myriad NGOs that are involved in one way or the other with the effort to stop the barbarous madness that is going on in Darfur. I was impressed by the fact that even though the global powers that be do not seem interested in providing any meaningful solutions to the conflict there still are people out there who are determined to do the little that they can to try and make a difference.
But I was also disappointed. Nearly all the panelists were foreigners, let’s say non-AU citizens. Now I do not mean to discriminate here. Darfur is a major problem and I know that Darfuris will be the first to tell you that all they want is an end to their hell-on-earth, regardless of where help to that end comes from. But even after fully appreciating this fact, I was still a bit unsettled by the fact that what I was seeing there is what is prevalent throughout the continent, not just with cases of armed conflict, but in other areas as well – poverty reduction, HIV and AIDS, malaria and what not. It is always the foreigners who seem to care more about the plight of the poor Africans than the Africans themselves (and their leaders of course). Why was there only one panelist from Sudan? Aren’t there Sudanese experts on Darfur, people who oppose al-Bashir’s genocidal policies and who can articulate their concerns at such conferences?
Forgive my digression. Anyway, the fact is that more than two million human beings have been displaced from their homes and their lives disrupted in unimaginable ways. More than 200,000 are dead. And nobody in Khartoum seems to give a rat’s behind.
Meanwhile the AU (the regional body that should be having Darfur, Somali and the DRC at the top of the agenda) just elected that clown, Muamar Gaddafi, as its president. The rather colourful Libyan dictator followed his election with a quick reminder of the true nature of African leaders – by saying that democracy was to blame for the crises in Africa. He is so full of horse manure. How is it not clear to people like this man that self-determination is the way of the future? How does he not get the fact that the days for rulers like him (and Mugabe, Al-Bashir, Obiang, and the whole brood of failures) on the continent of Africa are numbered?
At last there is some international organisation with some spine. Although the practicality of this accusation is doubtful – nobody even dreams that al-Bashir, the genocidal president of Northern Sudan will ever appear in court for his crimes in Darfur and beyond – the symbolism behind it is powerful. It is powerful because it says it like it is. President al-Bashir’s mission in Darfur is genocidal and utterly criminal. Yes, he is is fighting rebels intent on dislodging him from power (and as I have stated before I am no sympathizer of rebel movements) but the way he is doing it in Darfur is not the right way.
The prosecutor of the international criminal court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, brought the case against al-Bashir on account of the more than 300,000 deaths in Darfur over the last five years.
Again, al-Bashir may never see the inside of a cell in the Hague but it is a triumph for justice, or more appropriately, the quest for justice. Almost half a million have died and millions displaced while the international community ‘dillies and dallies’ about Sudan’s sovereignty. A nation forfeits its sovereignty the moment it starts butchering its own people. Period.
Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir and his kind throughout Africa and the world should be made aware of the fact that there are people out there who are dedicated to bringing them to justice. As usual, I am disappointed by the AU’s reaction to all this. I am kind of curious as to how the more outspoken (radical) presidents on the continent – Senegal’s Wade, Botswana’s Khama and Rwanda’s Kagame – will react to this. I hope that they will continue in their commitment to telling it like it is, unlike their more defensive counterparts.
On a related note. I wish more Darfuri rebels and Janjaweed militia alike could also be brought to book because all three parties (the JEM rebels, janjaweed and the government of Northern Sudan) are causing untold suffering to innocent civilians in this war.
The man behind the humanitarian catastrophe that is Darfur, one Omar Al-Bashir, is at it again, on another front. It has emerged that his government is backing the Arab Misseriya tribesmen against Southern Sudanese civilians in continuation of Al-Bashir’s genocidal agenda in Africa’s largest country.
The SPLM government of Southern Sudan said in a statement that its forces had killed about 70 armed Arab militias. In an editorial in the New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wrote about a contested town called Abyei that has been surrounded by armed Arab militias ready to attack. The status of the town is in question since both the North and Southern Sudan claim is as part of their autonomous territories. This latest incidence further confirms Al-Bashir’s commitment to using tribal militias as proxies for his continued refusal to honor the comprehensive peace agreement he signed with the late John Garang’ in 2005.
Just like in Darfur, Al-Bashir is using local tribal militias to kill, rape and maim innocent civilians that dare to protest against his autocratic rule that is biased against the South and other regions that are occupied by ethnic non-Arabs.
Al-Bashir’s policies toward the suffering masses in Darfur and elsewhere over the years confirm him to be a card-carrying latter day genocidal racist.
It is sad that the world continues to watch, with half hearted protests, as this murderous despot continues to kill and maim innocent women and children – the very people he is supposed to protect as president of Sudan.
This latest move by Al-Bashir will exert pressure on the delicate agreement that exists between North and Southern Sudan. Al-Bashir knows that consistent with the agreement, the South will definitely secede when they have a referendum in 2011. Before then he wants to gain control over as much potentially-oil-rich land as possible, even if it means killing innocent civilians. This is the case in Abyei and surrounding areas.
Al-Bashir is hiding behind Sudan’s “Islamic Country” status to keep the West at bay. So I think it is up to the rest of Africa to act. This guy needs to be stopped yesterday. If he doesn’t and the war escalates then I think the rest of Africa should consider putting together a joint force to keep him out of Darfur and Southern Sudan. This is the least we can do in honor of the millions that have died over the last three decades due to Northern Sudan’s racist arrogance. Africa owes this not only to the Darfuris and Southern Sudanese but also to itself.