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As the world dithers, Darfur crisis claims more casualties

In July 2008, the International Criminal Court (ICC), under the ruling of prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo indicted the president of Sudan- Omar al-Bashir, for committing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.
Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo and two Darfurians at the meeting in New York.
Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo and two Darfurians at the meeting in New York.

In July 2008, the International Criminal Court (ICC), under the ruling of prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo indicted the president of Sudan- Omar al-Bashir, for committing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

The international community seems to be straddling a razor as opinions differ on the best way forward to end one of Africa’s worst conflicts.

The ICC indictment did not come as a surprise to many; it follows the unrest in the region, a human calamity that has claimed thousands of lives.

The five-year long war degenerated into a genocide; leaving a trail of the most horrendous human catastrophe in which over 400,000  people from the Darfur region have lost their lives with 3 million having been displaced, while  4.5 million are on a life support system – as the humanitarian disaster takes its toll.

All this against mounting evidence on Omar al-Bashir and his ruthless military cohorts who stand accused of being behind the attacks on unarmed civilians in the Darfur province.

However, the Sudanese government has consistently denied the allegations on claims that the ICC charges did not hold water.

The glaring evidence will not be discarded that easily.
“We found evidence that al-Bashir himself was controlling the attacks on these people who normally live in Darfur,” Mr Ocampo said during an interview with the BBC’s Arabic Service.

The response to al-Bashir’s indictment exposes once again the dilemma in the international community when it comes to the application of international law, especially when pertaining to issues to do with international justice.

It is in this vein that you find some countries are calling for a halt to al-Bashir’s indictment, though Mr Ocampo disagrees pointing out that attacks were continuing and that he could not ignore the alleged crimes.

Placing the efficacy of the international justice system under much scrutiny.

The African Union (AU) and the Arab League differ with the ICC saying the investigation should be dropped.

These bodies say that the UN should block this course of action and are of the argument that the investigations on al-Bashir are hindering the already futile peace process.

Plausible reasons they also forward are to do with the selective application of international justice – whose purpose seems to be about bringing to book perpetrators from poor third world countries, but is silent on the impunity with which western countries violate the same rights. Take France’s complicity in the Rwanda genocide.

It is in this regard that the AU  chairman Jean Ping, said how it was unfair that all those indicted by the ICC so far were African.

“We are not against international justice,” he said, “It seems that Africa has become a laboratory to test the new international law.”

In the heat of these accusations, fingers are pointing east and west. Some Western countries, such as the USA and the UK, believe that Mr Bashir’s government has backed militias-the Janjaweed who are accused of committing wide-spread atrocities in the Darfur.

The continued bickering has not helped calm the volatile situation – instead the dead body count is increasing if latest reports are anything to go by of recent attacks on the Kalma refugee camp.

On August 25 the people in one of the displacement camps the Kalma refugee camp, witnessed one of the most deadly clashes since the early days of the conflict.

The deadly standoff in which the Sudanese government is reported to have allegedly, killed 31 people, who included women and children has left a looming cloud of uncertainty -- as peace remains illusive in the volatile region. 

The people are restless and helpless but are still determined to fight to the death, in defense of their lives and their property.

But all this is done literary with bare hands, with no weapons for defence, they use stones, sticks, hoes, axes and knives to fight the well armed government militia.

“We are like people living inside a fire,” said Ali Abdel Khaman Tahir, the camp’s head sheik, told the media recently. “Our anger is stronger than ever.”

His second in command, Sheik Issa Adam Ahmed, added, “If the government comes to try to kill us again, we will kill them back.”-‘Some see Darfur as a time bomb’ explains Edmund Sanders who reports of hardening positions.

After this attack many fear that the front lines of the rebellion are shifting from mountaintop rebel strongholds and remote desert villages to the displacement camps to which victims had fled to stay out of harm’s way.

Fueling speculation that the Sudanese government in a bid to stave off the ICC indictment is eager to destroy all camps and the evidence of atrocities therein.

Kalma is only one of the dozens of camps that are intended to be havens for the hundreds of thousands of victims of Darfur’s violence. Nearly 90,000 people can find some food, shelter and other assistance in these camps, having fled their villages, in a period spanning the last five years.

Not only have hundreds of thousands lost their lives from the fighting in Darfur - but deaths mostly due to disease and hunger are on the increase.

As the rain season sets in, floods have washed away crops in some of the isolated villages in the southeast parts of the country, where refugee returnees had settled. It is reported that 69 children have died from malnutrition and sickness.

A report from the U.N.’s mission in Sudan, said the World Health Organisation (WHO) sent a team to Bellila this month to set up a health clinic and to assess the situation.

The report said 48 children died in the village of Gindi and another 21 in Borfa in the months of August and September, all of them aged between one and six. They died from malnutrition, diarrhoea and malaria.

Almost half of the 1,200 villagers needed medical treatment, a situation likely to be similar in other remote areas of Kurmuk, the report said.

Meanwhile, as the United Nations Security Council and diplomats at the UN General Assembly were discussing Darfur, on September 24, a group of about 150 people from the Darfur region and Sudanese from different parts of the United States gathered in Brooklyn, New-York to meet with  Moreno-Ocampo.

They wanted to stand with him and support his work – and make sure that he understood that they are the ones whose voices need to be heard, in their demand for peace and justice.

Contrary to some African and other international leaders who have made trips to New-York, to figure out how to protect Omar al-Bashir, who has committed genocide against his own people.

It is so daunting that the on-going atrocity in Darfur is still receiving only passing mention in the international community.

This only lends credence to oft-repeated attacks on the international justice system that it does not work for the poor, struggling masses.

The ICC is expected to rule on how to proceed before the end of this year. It can either refuse to prosecute the case against Omar al- Bashir if it is convinced that doing so would be a threat to the peace and security of Darfur.


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