How Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir evaded ICC’s claws

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Ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir spent a decade flexing trade muscles with countries like Kenya to avoid International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants.

However, his toppling on Thursday could expose him.

As he left the office that protected him from arrests in Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and South Africa, Al-Bashir, the first sitting President to be indicted by the International Criminal Court, will now have no immunity.

Perhaps he could look back at how he cited sovereignty, threatened flight bans on Kenya, placed tough conditions on Kenyan tea and used his influence as a key ally in negotiations for South Sudan peace to fight off arrest.

“Al-Bashir utilised the position he occupied to immunise himself. He never defended himself. Now that he is out of power, it is fertile ground to have him brought before the court,” Mr Samwel Mohochi, the executive director of the International Commission of Jurists-Kenya, told the Nation on Thursday.

The ICJ-Kenya had once obtained a local warrant for arrest against Bashir, but which was later set aside by the Court of Appeal.

“We have never heard his side of the story. Many people have come before the ICC, some acquitted, others convicted. His guilt or innocence will be determined by the court.”

Some international observers argue Al-Bashir’s fate rests with the incoming government.

“It depends on who is coming in as the next government. If it is the military, they are his people. They have been with him all through,” said Macharia Munene, professor of history and international relations and lecturer at USIU-Africa.

“If they do a ‘Mugabe’, that is a sanitised coup by the military; he could be safe. It’s going to depend on arrangements he has with them, and there is a big unlikelihood of him being taken to the ICC,” he added, referring to the ousting of former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe by his own army in 2017 but replaced by a regime friendly to him.

In March 2009, Al-Bashir was slapped with the first arrest warrant on five counts of crimes against humanity in Darfur, where his troops quelled a rebellion in 2013.

In July 2010, the ICC issued a second arrest warrant on three counts of genocide. But there was a problem: Sudan wasn’t a member of the ICC, the case was only referred to the court via the UN Security Council, and it required cooperation of member states to nail him.

For Kenya, national interests mattered more. In August 2010, Al-Bashir arrived in Nairobi to attend the promulgation of the Constitution. Activists protested and the ICJ-Kenya went to court.

But in between the lines, he was pulling the levers. First, he summoned his ambassador to Kenya Beder el Din Abdalla back to Khartoum ‘for consultations’ and ordered Kenya’s envoy back within 24 hours.

He would later ‘delay’ expulsion of the Kenyan envoy, but threatened to ban all flights to and from Nairobi, which was an indirect threat on flower exports.


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Publish date : 2019-04-12 04:07:00

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