July 15, 2008

HARRISONBURG—Today in his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, reacts to yesterday’s application by International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo for an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Umar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes for his role in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

While Dr. Pham concedes that, even if the three-judge panel confirmed the ten counts alleged against Bashir and issued the requested warrant, there will not likely be much immediate effect, he nonetheless argues that the legal proceedings will not be without their geopolitical consequences, irrespective of the their eventual juridical disposition. In fact, Bashir’s indictment by an international tribunal acting under a Chapter VII mandate from the United Nations Security Council “will weaken his regime even further as it increases the diplomatic costs for other governments should they choose to deal with him” and “immensely complicate the lives of diplomats seeking to keep myriad ramshackle accords and processes on life support.” A formal indictment will also cause hardliners within Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) to resist further cooperation with undermanned hybrid African Union/United Nations force in Darfur (UNAMID) and slow down their already-lagging implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended the decades of civil war between the Arab-dominated Muslim north of the country and South Sudan—thus leading to increased likelihood of conflict in the short term. Nonetheless, the article sees, over the long term, a positive outcome to these difficulties:

[W]hile rough patches lie ahead, Monday’s warrant application may well mark a watershed in the progressive isolation of the Khartoum regime as well as the continuing break-up of the artificial Sudanese state as rigged elections and other tensions lead to the collapse of the CPA and South Sudan then declaring its sovereign independence without waiting for the scheduled 2011 referendum foreseen by the accord. The break-up of Sudan would then deprive the NCP regime of the resources—recall that almost all of the country’s proven reserve of 6.4 billion barrels of petroleum are found in the South—which it has hitherto used to buy loyalty from the Arab Muslim population at the center and oppress the peoples of the periphery in places like South Sudan and Darfur. That would not only spell the end of an Islamist regime that once hosted Usama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, but would also deal a major setback to mainland China’s strategy of penetrating Africa and, through marriages of convenience with local despots, acquiring privileged access to natural resources to fuel its rise to great power status while setting back democratic progress on the continent. Thus, in a broader perspective, indicting the Sudanese tyrant is not only a victory for the campaign against impunity in the case of one man, it may well also open the way to ending a whole series of conflicts and present a historic opportunity for both Africans and their American friends.

To read the full text of the article, “ Sudan: The Beginning of the End,” click here.