Continued Rejection of the ICC in West and East Africa

It is not new to read of African governments ignoring or rejecting the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s claims to jurisdictional authority. But two stories this week reinforce the idea that many key players on the continent are willing to cross the Court.

First is Sudanese President Omar al Bashir’s attendance at an African Union summit in Abuja, Nigeria. The ICC issued a warrant for Bashir’s arrest in March 2009, in connection with war crimes in Darfur. His travel itinerary since then charts a map of ICC rejection across Africa and beyond. While Nigeria is the first West African nation to host Bashir, it joins a trend that includes several other countries and the African Union itself. From the BBC:

Mr Bashir has visited numerous African countries since the arrest warrant was issued – including Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

Only Botswana and Malawi have threatened to arrest him.

In May, the AU called on the ICC to drop war crimes charges against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta after accusing it of “hunting” Africans because of their race.

Mention of Kenya brings us to the second news item from this week: Yesterday, the ICC rejected another request from Kenyan Vice President William Ruto, who like Kenyatta faces charges at the Court, to hold his trial in Africa.

The election, in March of this year, of Kenyatta and Ruto seemed a rebuke to the Court. Both men have been under indictment since March 2011 in connection with election/post-election violence in 2007-2008. David Bosco, writing shortly before Kenya’s most recent election, spelled out some potential consequences that a Kenyatta victory might have for the Court. One of these is particularly noteworthy in light of the Court’s decision on Ruto’s request for a trial location change:

That a freshly elected African head of state will bear the burden of ICC indictment would likely worsen already poor relations between the court and African officialdom. Many African leaders have argued that the ICC, which to this point has indicted only Africans, systematically ignores crimes committed in other parts of the world. At various points, African leaders have discussed withdrawing en masse from the treaty that created the court or, more likely, empowering a regional court to investigate atrocities, thereby displacing the ICC.

The ICC’s decision to keep Ruto’s trial in The Hague may strengthen such sentiments among some African leaders.

From both Nigeria and Kenya, then, I see fresh examples of the difficulty the Court is having in achieving legitimacy and recognition in Africa.

Sudan: A Cross-Amputation in Political Context

Q 5:33 is rendered, in Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation, “The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle, and strive with might and main for mischief throughout the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.”

On February 14, Sudanese authorities carried out a “cross-amputation” against an accused highway robber named Adam al Muthna. According to Human Rights Watch, “Muthna was convicted of armed robbery (Haraba) under article 167 of the 1991 Sudanese Penal Code in relation to an armed attack on a truck carrying passengers between North Kordofan and East Darfur in March 2006.” HRW adds,

Article 168(b) of the Sudanese Penal Code provides cross amputation as a penalty for armed robbery when it results in grievous injury or involves the robbery of property equivalent to an amount decreed by the judiciary, currently set at 1500 Sudanese Pounds (approximately US$ 340).

Amputation as a form of corporal punishment was incorporated into Sudanese law in 1983 when then-President Gaffar Nimeiry introduced Islamic reforms known as the “September laws.” Although sentences imposing amputations have been handed down under those laws, there are no known cases since 2001 in which such sentences have been carried out. Human rights groups had hoped this signaled a de facto moratorium on the practice.

[…]

Sudanese authorities have imposed stoning sentences and routinely order flogging penalties. Both penalties are forms of corporal punishment justified as Sharia (Islamic law). In 2012, two sentences of death by stoning for adultery were imposed on women but were overturned following an international outcry.

Reuters discusses some of the political context that helps explain why the “de facto moratorium” has ended. Some argue that the cross-amputation represents a move to claim religious legitimacy amid domestic dissent. (Diverse forms of dissent in recent years have included armed rebellion in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, an alleged coup attempt, street protests motivated by economic and political grievances, etc.) Reuters also points out that the government has consistently pledged deeper Islamization of society, government, and law since the run-up to South Sudan’s secession.

[The cross-amputation] followed a pledge by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to implement a “100%” Islamic constitution as a result of the secession in 2011 of the mainly non-Muslim south of Sudan.

Let’s flash back to December 2010:

Sudan’s president said the country would adopt an Islamic constitution if the south split away in a referendum due next month, in a speech on [19 December 2010] in which he also defended police filmed flogging a woman.

“If south Sudan secedes, we will change the constitution and at that time there will be no time to speak of diversity of culture and ethnicity,” President Omar Hassan al-Bashir told supporters at a rally in the eastern city of Gedaref.

“Sharia (Islamic law) and Islam will be the main source for the constitution, Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language,” he said.

And to July 2012:

“We want to present a constitution that serves as a template to those around us. And our template is clear, a 100 percent Islamic constitution, without communism or secularism or Western (influences),” said Bashir [in a speech in Khartoum on 7 July 2012].

“And we tell non-Muslims, nothing will preserve your rights except for Islamic sharia because it is just,” he said.

Bashir, facing small-scale protests calling for him to step down, said a committee made up of “all parties, religious sects and Sufis” would be set up to draft a constitution.

That appeared to be a move to assuage resentment by other opposition parties – many of which are still dominated by Islamist figures – over Bashir’s reluctance to loosen the grip of the ruling National Congress Party.

He did not give a date for the new constitution.

As of last month, momentum toward a new constitution seemed to be growing.

I think the cross-amputation is a sign that the Bashir government’s statements and plans concerning deeper Islamization deserve to be taken seriously. It seems likely that there will be continued efforts by his government to design and carry out legislation based on the government’s reading of shari’a.

A few relevant resources:

A Sudanese Reaction to OSJI’s Torture Report

The Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) recently released a report (.pdf) entitled, “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition.” The report includes sections on numerous countries whose governments reportedly participated in detention and rendition. Readers of this blog may be interested to look at the sections on Algeria (p. 65), Djibouti (pp. 73-74), Ethiopia (pp. 75-76), Gambia (p. 77), Kenya (p. 88), Libya (pp. 88-90), Mauritania (p. 96), Morocco (pp. 97-98), and Somalia (pp. 106-107). At the Washington Post, Max Fisher has created what he calls “a staggering map of the 54 countries that reportedly participated in the CIA’s rendition program.”

The report has no stand-alone section on Sudan, but the report refers to Sudan several times as a site where people were transferred.

I have been interested for some time in the issue of what “leverage” the United States government has over the Sudanese government, and whether Khartoum has grown pessimistic about its chances of normalizing relations with Washington. In light of this concern, I was interested to read the Sudan Tribune‘s article on the OSJI report. The Paris-based Sudan Tribune is not a government-run publication and sometimes takes an oppositional tone toward the government, but I would not be surprised if some officials in Khartoum share the paper’s sense of what it calls the “irony” of Sudan’s cooperation on renditions:

“It is true that there was a period of time, as in 2002, 2003 and 2004, when intelligence cooperation with NISS went up but that has to be put in context … It is relative as it [counterterrorism ties] went from nothing to something,” [a US] official told Sudan Tribune last month.

He said that the US intelligence cooperation with Sudan is nowhere near the one that exists with Jordan, for example.

Ironically Sudan has been on the US blacklist of states sponsoring terrorism since 1993 over allegations it harboured Islamist militants.

Sudan has also been subject to comprehensive economic sanctions since 1997 over terrorism charges as well as human right abuses. Further sanctions, particularly on weapons, were imposed in 2003 following the outbreak of violence in the western Darfur region.

Have you read any other reactions to the OSJI report from around the region?

Update on New Leadership for Sudan’s Islamic Movement

Back in November, Sudan’s Islamic Movement – historically a key pillar of support for President Omar al Bashir and the ruling National Congress Party – held its eighth general conference. The conference attracted attention and speculation as observers watched to see how divided the Movement would appear. Some observers also say that the succession to the post of secretary-general may hold clues as to the future succession battle over the Sudanese presidency itself. The outgoing Secretary-General (due to term limits) and current First Vice President of Sudan is Ali Osman Mohammad Taha (bio here).

It’s now possible to give a few updates. At its conference the Movement elected Zubair Mohamed Hassan as its new secretary-general, and Dr. Mahdi Ibrahim (a former Sudanese ambassador to the US, I believe) as president of its 300-member Shura (Arabic: Consultation) Council (more on how the elections unfolded here, in Arabic). The Council subsequently selected several new deputies: Bakri Hassan Salah, Hassabo Mohamed Abdel-Rahman, Raja Hassan Khalifa, and Hamid Sidiq. The Sudan Tribune attaches special significance to Bakri’s appointment.

Bakri who is among those army officers who implemented the Islamist coup d’état of June 1989, occupied important positions in the different governments including director of national security service, defence and interior minister.

He is also known as influential among the Sudanese armed forces. But he remained far from the Islamic Movement and the organs of the National Congress Party.

His name circulated recently in Khartoum among those who might probably succeed to President Omer Al-Bashir who remains strongly attached to the military institution more than the party.

Observers say Bakri has the support of Bashir and the army. At different crises high ranking officers in the Sudan Armed Forces prefer to deal directly with him about their concerns instead of their minister Abdel-Rahim Hussein.

I have only been able to find limited information on the other appointees. According to this article (Arabic), new Secretary-General Zubair Hassan is “among the major economic personalities in the country,” and is “head of the financial sector in the ruling party.” He previously held posts as financial minister and oil minister, among others. Sudan Tribune has a brief note on Hassabo Mohamed Abdel Rahman, who “was appointed to lead the National Congress Party’s political relations bureau on 23 February 2012.” Raja Hassan Khalifa was, as of early 2012, an adviser to Bashir and a university professor. In this article, Sudan Tribune identifies Hamid Sidiq as the NCP’s communications secretary.

Sudan: Khartoum’s Pessimism on Normalizing Relations with the United States

Since 1993, the US State Department has listed Sudan as a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Since 1997, Sudan has faced a set of economic and political sanctions from the US. President Barack Obama renewed those sanctions in November, as he did in November 2011. Both times, unsurprisingly, the government in Khartoum objected to the decision, charging that Washington wants the sanctions to hurt Sudan’s economy. This year, the Sudanese government suggested that it had fulfilled the conditions necessary for Washington to lift the sanctions:

“The American administration has acknowledged more than once that Sudan has honored its commitments but the American administration, time and again, has withdrawn from its promises … to lift the sanctions,” the foreign ministry said.

Implied in the statement is that by allowing the secession of South Sudan, Khartoum did what Washington wanted it to do.

The State Department suggested that sanctions would remain in place as a means of pressuring Khartoum to make peace with South Sudan and in the new border zones such as South Kordofan, where the Sudanese government is at war with rebels:

In recent years, Sudan has made progress in resolving a number of outstanding issues with South Sudan, which contributes significantly to the prospects for peace between the two countries. However, the ongoing conflict in Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur continue to threaten regional stability, and the human rights and humanitarian crises there – including the lack of humanitarian access – are very serious. Outstanding issues with South Sudan, such as the final status of Abyei, also pose such a threat. Addressing these concerns is necessary for a peaceful Sudan and would enable the United States and Sudan to move towards a normalized relationship.

The issue of sanctions revives a conversation that took place at different points last year among Africa watchers about whether the US has real leverage over Khartoum. A brief conversation that occurred last summer on Twitter between Sudanese blogger Amir Ahmad Nasr and Sudan analyst Bec Hamilton has stuck with me, and I am reminded of it now. Nasr wrote, “There’s leverage. Sudan badly wants relations normalized with US.” Hamilton responded, “Right, but that’s no longer leverage since Khartoum doesn’t believe it will ever happen (and they are probably right).”

Why am I writing about this now, when the sanctions were renewed well over a month ago? Because of a statement on December 16 by the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ spokesperson Al-Obaid Adam Marawih:

Marawih told the pro-government daily Akhbar Al-Yawm* that Sudan’s position on normalizing ties with the U.S. remain clear and unchanged. He elaborated that as long as this issue remains in the hands of lobby groups in the U.S. Congress, Sudan can never hope for any positive results.

“We reiterated this position when we congratulated the U.S. President [Barack Obama] on his re-election for the second term” Marawih said. He added that therefore the issue is “not a priority” for Khartoum in the time being.

Regardless of whether one agrees with Marawih’s idea of the causes for the continued sanctions, his pessimism regarding prospects for normalization – and, assuming he speaks for the government, a broader pessimism in Khartoum regarding this issue – is clear.

*I tried to find the Arabic article but the link to the paper is broken for me.

Another Round of Protests in Sudan

Sudan experienced protests in January-February 2011, November-December 2011, and June-July 2012. The protests have responded to a diverse set of grievances, including economic stagnation, austerity policies, and political dissatisfaction with the regime of President Omar al Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup. The protests, particularly those in early 2011, can be understood as part of the “Arab Spring,” but they should not be reduced to some parochial echo of a regional roar; the protests were and are grounded in Sudanese politics. Students have played a major role in organizing the demonstrations.

Sudan is now experiencing a fourth protest wave (Sudan has experienced protests in the past, notably in 1964, but I am grouping the protest waves of 2011-2012 together for the sake of analysis). This wave is connected to Darfur, which was the site of significant protests during the summer. The December 7 discovery of Darfuri student protester corpses in Gezira has touched off student protests in Khartoum. Protests reportedly occurred on Sunday and Monday, drawing crowds in the hundreds. Police gassed, beat, and arrested protesters on Sunday.

The Sudanese protests have not been large, rarely reaching four-digit numbers for crowds. But this round of demonstrations comes at a bad time for the regime, which recently put down an alleged coup attempt. A recent New York Times article discusses the “open secret” of “discontent within [the] ranks” of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party. During the past two years, the regime has been able to put down protests again and again, and I doubt this time will be different. But the multiple challenges the regime faces, internal and external, are serious and suggest a long-term crisis of legitimacy.

After Latest Sudan-South Sudan Agreement, Southern Oil Exports May Resume Soon

Sudan and South Sudan have suffered economic pain in the last two years – Sudan, due to the loss of the South and its oil in 2011; and the South, due to the shutdown of oil production it began in late January of this year as a protest measure against Khartoum’s demands regarding oil transit fees. The shutdown in the South has, of course, also affected the north, and the economic picture I’m painting here is extremely simplified – more economic information about Sudan is available here and here, and more information about South Sudan is available here.

Economic pain has continued in part because of political conflict. Since South Sudan’s independence, the two countries have disputed issues including border demarcation, security, and oil revenue sharing. In August of this year, Sudan and South Sudan came to a tentative agreement on oil, and signed a deal covering oil and border security on September 26. Yet security issues remained unresolved, and the South did not restart its oil production on November 15 as it had planned.

On December 1, Pagan Amum, the South’s chief negotiator, met with Sudanese officials in Khartoum. The meeting had two important outcomes. First, the South Sudanese now plan to resume oil exports through Sudan within a few weeks (although returning production to pre-shutdown levels could take up to one year). Second, the two sides have agreed to stop supporting rebel movements within each other’s territory; the north is particularly concerned about the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North or SPLM-N, who have fought government forces in the Sudanese states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, along the new border between Sudan and South Sudan. AFP has more on the new agreement and the background to it.

The success of these agreements, of course, will depend on their implementation. Meanwhile, other contentious issues remain, including determining when and whether the territory of Abyei will hold a referendum about joining the South or the north.

For Arabic readers, summaries of the remarks of Pagan Amum and Sudanese presidential assistant Nafi Ali Nafi are available, respectively, here and here.