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:

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.

Who Was Involved in the Alleged Coup Against Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir?

Sudan appeared to suffer an attempted coup d’etat last week, possibly motivated by what some observers say is the failing health and increasing political isolation of President Omar al Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup. What follows is a list of key personalities involved and the biographical information known about them, as presented in international and local media. The list includes some very senior figures. The reported involvement of both top military commanders and Islamists – two major components of the coalition that originally brought Bashir to power – is bad news for the regime. That does not necessarily mean that Bashir’s fall is imminent, but it does point to a steady erosion of the regime’s cohesion.

Reported Military Involvement

VOA writes that “a number of military and intelligence officers [are] suspected of involvement in the purported plot.” At the center of the coverage is Salah Abdallah “Gosh,” who was arrested along with twelve other persons on November 22. According to AP,

Gosh was Sudan’s intelligence chief for 10 years before being promoted to security adviser in 2009. Once a member of the president’s inner circle, Gosh was sacked as adviser in April 2011 for becoming critical of the regime.

AP names two other individuals:

  • Maj. Gen. Adil Al-Tayeb “of military intelligence”
  • Brig. Gen. Mohammed Ibrahim, “a field commander with the Sudanese Armed Forces [SAF].”

The Sudan Tribune, which says that the entire story is “steeped in confusion,” adds a few other (possible) names of the arrested:

  • Major General Kamal Abdel-Ma’Rouf, “the army commander who led the ‘liberation’ of Heglig oil area after it was briefly occupied by South Sudan in April this year.” An SAF commander also reportedly denied that Abdel-Ma’rouf was among the arrested.
  • Lieutenant General Mohammed Ibrahim Abdel Galil, “a veteran SAF officer who served in the war against South Sudan for 12 years…He used to be close to President Al-Bashir and served as head of his security for six years.” Note: This is likely the same General Mohammed Ibrahim that AP mentions.
  • Brigadier General Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Ouf.
  • “Well placed sources later told Sudan Tribune that former presidential adviser and head of NCP bloc in parliament Ghazi Salah al-Deen Al-Attabani was summoned for questioning by [the National Intelligence and Security Services, NISS] on his possible role in the plot but was later released.”
  • The Sudan Tribune writes that there have even been denials of Gosh’s involvement.

A separate Sudan Tribune article names two other military commanders:

Other uncorroborated reports named Brigadier General Fath Al-Raheem Abdulla who headed the joint Sudanese-Chadian border forces and former head of Sudan’s armoured corps Brigadier General Sideeg Fadl.

Reported Islamist Involvement

Islamists were reportedly connected to the coup in two ways: first, through dissent that surfaced at the recent conference of the Islamic Movement; and second, through arrests of members of an Islamist sect comprising regime-allied fighters but now in a position of dissent. Time calls the conference, and the way dissenters found their path to reform blocked there, the “catalyst” for the coup.

On the militia, the Sudan Tribune writes:

Multiple security and military sources told Sudan Tribune that the NISS arrested around 100 pro-government Islamist elements who belong to a group widely known as “Al-Sae’ohoon” who formed the core of special forces fighting South Sudan rebels during the civil war since Bashir came to power in [1989] in a bloodless military coup backed by the National Islamist Front (NIF).

Al-Sae’ohoon has been vocal recently over reform demands and expressed bitterness that the NCP leadership has softened stance on Islamic principles and gave too many concessions to South Sudan in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), while allowing for army to suffer military setbacks.

“Al Sa’ihun” would be a cleaner transcription from the Arabic. “The wanderers/travelers in the cause of Allah” may be a provisional translation (see Q 9:112). Al Jazeera (Arabic) reports on the movement’s relationship to the regime, writing of “deep disagreements” that appeared at the Islamic Movement’s conference between al Sa’ihun and the Movement’s leadership. Al Jazeera quotes from a letter al Sa’ihun sent to Bashir asking for the release of their imprisoned comrades, stressing how these men have served “the Revolution…from its beginning until Heglig.” The letter affirms loyalty to Bashir while criticizing his defense minister Abd al Rahman Muhammad Hussein.

As Time says, “Those detained overnight on Thursday were not only obvious foes of Bashir.” The pattern of arrests indicates that some core supporters of the regime have broken with it, or are threatening to do so. The combination of military defections and Islamist dissent (and of course there is overlap between military and Islamist ranks) poses a major problem for a regime that has relied on these constituencies as pillars of its support.

Sudan’s Islamic Movement Heads to Its General Conference

This week, the Islamic Movement of Sudan will hold its General Conference, which takes place every four years. Various sub-national conferences have already occurred in preparation for the main event. The national conference may give some insight into the trajectory of the Movement, its relationship with the regime of President Omar al Bashir, and the hopes of various leaders to succeed Bashir, perhaps as soon as 2015.

Founded in 1945 (read a history of the Movement here, .pdf, start p. 95) as a Sudanese counterpart to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Movement has participated under several names in many of the critical moments of Sudanese politics, including the popular uprising of 1964 and the 1989 coup that brought the National Islamic Front (NIF) to power. In 1999, the Movement split amid rivalry between President Bashir and Dr. Hassan al Turabi, the longtime leader of the Movement. The greater part of the Movement remained with Bashir and his National Congress Party (NCP), while Turabi’s group renamed itself the Popular Congress Party. The (remaining) Movement has been called one of three main components within the Bashir regime, the other two being the military and the leadership of the NPC itself. Read more background on the Movement here.

The immediate background for this week’s meeting includes several points of tension:

  • memorandum, submitted by some Movement members to the regime, that called for various reforms, including a “veiled demand, namely the institution of the authority of the Islamic Movement proper over the ruling NCP.” Bashir appeared on television to reject the demands.
  • Internal divisions, possibly similar to those that drove a split in 1999. This article (Arabic) describes substantial opposition with the Movement to Bashir and the NCP.
  • An impending change of leadership for the Movement: “The IM’s secretary-general and Sudan’s first Vice-President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha will not be able to run as an incumbent because the current constitution does not allow more than two terms in the position. Taha was elected to the position during the last conference after facing strong competition with current presidential adviser Ghazi Salah Al-Din Al-Atabani. It is not clear whether Al-Atabani intends to run again but insiders say the man has recently stepped out of decision-making circles due to what they described as his unhappiness with the way the NCP has handled a number of sensitive issues lately.” More on the internal succession issue here (Arabic).
  • Jockeying for position as leaders ask who will eventually succeed Bashir. AFP writes, “Potential candidates to replace Bashir are jostling for influence within the Islamic Movement.”

Despite these tensions, some are expecting a relatively quiet conference:

While only about 12 percent of NCP members come from the Islamic Movement, most of the leadership belongs to the movement, said Amin Hassan Omer, from its ruling secretariat.

He predicted “nothing specific” about succession will emerge from the conference, and said does not see a real power struggle in the Movement.

Mahjoub Mohamed Salih, publisher of the independent Al-Ayaam newspaper, said the conference would highlight divisions between grassroots Islamists and NCP loyalists, though he does not see the movement fracturing.

We’ll find out later this week.

Sudan, Uganda, and Rebels

Sudan and Uganda have been trading accusations this year that each side is supporting rebel groups against the other. In April, Uganda charged that Sudan was backing the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a group whose rebellion began in Uganda in the 1980s but has since metastasized into a regional problem. Uganda’s Chief of Defense Forces Aronda Nyakairima stated that Joseph Kony, the LRA’s leader, was now operating out of Western Bahr el Ghazal in South Sudan near the borders with Sudan and the Central African Republic. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni even weighed in, warning Sudan not to support the LRA.

Sudan fired back with allegations that Uganda was supporting rebel groups against the Sudanese government, allegations that Uganda denied. Uganda does allow Sudanese rebel groups to operate in its territory, though. On October 4, rebel groups in the Sudanese Revolutionary Front coalition held a ceremony in Uganda’s capital Kampala where they signed a document “detailing how Sudan should be governed once the regime of President Omer Al-Bashir is brought down.” Fighting continued in Sudan this week as “Sudanese air force and ground troops attacked positions of rebels of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North on Wednesday in an attempt to halt a rebel advance on the city of Kadugli, South Kordofan’s capital.” The SPLM-N is a member of the Revolutionary Front.

Amid violence inside Sudan and diplomatic tensions between Kampala and Khartoum, Uganda and Sudan are attempting a rapprochement. Sudan Tribune reports:

Sudan and Uganda agreed to reactivate a joint committee between the two countries to discuss contentious issues and improve strained relations, a Sudanese official said .

Salah El-Din Wansi, state ministry for foreign affairs told the official news agency SUNA on Monday evening following his return from Kamala that the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, directed to reactivate a joint committee to tackle ways to improve bilateral relations and to ease tensions.

[…]

The two countries held different meetings in the past but they failed to settle the issues of rebel groups as Kampala insisted that Sudan should help to arrest Joseph Kony. But Khartoum kept saying they have no contact with the notorious rebel leader.

Sudan and Uganda made an effort at reconciliation in May, but it seems to have yielded little progress. We’ll see if this time is different. The outcome will have implications for a number of issues, including the hunt for Joseph Kony and the trajectory of negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan (of which Uganda is a major ally).

Africa News Roundup: Sudan-South Sudan Talks, Al Shabab, the UNSC and Mali, and More

First in the roundup, there’s a lot of news coming out of Sudan and South Sudan now:

  • President Omar al Bashir of Sudan and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan are set to meet tomorrow in Addis Ababa.
  • Reuters: “Former civil war foes Sudan and South Sudan have told mediators that they are ready to end one of Africa’s longest conflicts this weekend, but behind the diplomacy their relationship is one of enduring mistrust and enmity. With an army of advisors and experts pressuring both sides, the leaders of the neighboring nations may feel compelled to reach a limited agreement in Addis Ababa to end hostilities, for now, after coming close to war in April.”
  • The African Union is applying pressure on the two sides to reach an agreement, and the US, the UK, and Norway have issued a joint statement also calling for an agreement.
  • Sudanese authorities denied protesters permission to stage another demonstration over an anti-Islamic film yesterday.

The Atlantic: “How Al Shabab Lost Control of Somalia”

The UN Security Council issued a press release yesterday on the situation in Mali.

The members of the Security Council take note of the Interim Malian Government’s request for assistance to ECOWAS.  They further take note of the ongoing strategic planning efforts of ECOWAS and stress the need for ECOWAS to coordinate with the Interim Government of Mali, the African Union, other Sahel countries, bilateral partners and international organizations, including the European Union, with the support of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in order to prepare detailed options regarding the objectives, means and modalities of the deployment of a regional force in Mali.  They express their readiness to consider a feasible and actionable proposal from ECOWAS addressing such a request from the Interim Malian Government.

In Nigeria, state governors are taking the Federal Government to court over the country’s sovereign wealth fund. “The operation of the fund by the federal government violates a constitutional provision that all government revenue must be shared among that states and the center, the governors said in a joint statement.”

Reuters on Niger’s 2013 budget.

What else is happening?