18 Oct What If We Held a Peace Summit But (Almost) Nobody Came?
That’s the situation with the Sudanese government’s latest contribution to the “peace” process:
The United States, Darfuri rebels and Sudanese opposition parties have greeted a new initiative to solve the Darfur crisis with scepticism and boycotts, while Khartoum, the Arab League and the UN say it’s the region’s best hope.
Widespread doubts about the credibility of the process prevail ahead of deliberations expected to last three days. “The purpose is not to solve the problem of Darfur but to give sanctuary to [President Omar al-] Bashir from the International Criminal Court (ICC),” said Bashir Adam Rahma, of the opposition Popular Congress Party, led by Hassan al-Turabi.
“The government lacks credibility because of the last five years,” said Alberto Fernandez, Chief of Mission at the United States embassy in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.
“There is doubt in the minds of many people – many of the people of Darfur, many of the refugees and others,” he said.
He also questioned whether displaced people had a voice at the discussion table. “The proof is going to be whether this event can be translated into real substantive change on the ground in Darfur as quickly as possible, or will it be the latest in a long line of political theatre that we have seen over the last five years in Darfur?”
Like the Popular Congress Party, all rebel groups have boycotted the initiative, calling it “a proposal aimed at defusing the row with the International Criminal Court”.
“Political theater” is an accurate description. There is still no indication that the Sudanese government genuinely wants peace — nearly 40,000 people have been displaced in the last two months alone, largely as a result of fighting that began “when government troops attacked rebel-held areas along the border with Libya in northern Darfur — sometimes accompanied by aircraft and Arab militias.” Indeed, Darfuri rebel groups have claimed, not without reason, that the latest round of fighting was designed to “clear them out of strategic areas to change the balance of power on the ground ahead of peace negotiations.”
Still, the Sudanese government continues to enjoy the uncritical support of at least one group: the African Union. In passing along Sudan’s most recent self-serving report to the Security Council, the AU hailed “the significant progress so far achieved” by the government and claimed that the progress “demonstrates its commitment to continued cooperation, without reservation, with the collective efforts of the African Union, the United Nations and the international community, to achieve lasting peace and security in Darfur.” And what is the evidence of that progress and commitment?
On the judicial track the report provided seven examples of cases that were investigated by the Sudanese judiciary as part of its efforts to prosecute war crimes in Darfur.
All the cases date back to the years 2004-2005 but none of them involve any senior Sudanese military or government officials.
The examples shown on the report, deal with assault on aid cars, robbery, mischief and torture.
“The public prosecution of the republic of the Sudan is currently enquiring into a number of criminal suits in the states of Darfur. Such suits will be submitted for trial as soon as the enquiry is completed” the report said.
Sudan also said it dismissed some criminal cases “relating to rape in the most…for lack of evidence”.
Another revealing aspect of the report, which was written in September: it doesn’t mention Kushayb’s arrest, despite the fact that the Sudanese government claims to have had him in custody since at least August.
Progress and commitment indeed.