|Mohamed Bushara Dousa, Sudanese justice minister|
Over the past three weeks the ‘new’ justice minister, Mohamed Bushara Dousa, has initiated an overhaul of judicial structures that is yet to find registry in public opinion. The minister started with the entry points to the justice system and decided to cancel all prosecution fees, a matter of great significance to those who prefer a micro-approach to human affairs. His second major move was towards Darfur, probably in the context of the government’s announced and much celebrated new Darfur policy, more in the line of stabilisation post-pacification. At a stroke the minister sent the unimpressive Darfur crimes prosecutor, Mr Nimr Ibrahim Mohamed, home and appointed a team led by his undersecretary, Abdel Dayem Zumrawi, to lead the ever-delayed investigations into the Darfur terror. Crossing back to his ministry he then appointed a new prosecutor general and advocate general in a bid to shake up the two departments. The minister then announced commencement of investigations into the Tabra and Taweela cases and visited Darfur on the heels of the interior and defence ministers to oversee the re-establishment of courts committed to the investigation of Darfur crimes in the three capitals of the region.
Of gravity though are the minister’s parliamentary statements against impunity, and his declared intention to review the blanket immunities state officials down to local popular committees currently enjoy. Taking such a line the minister is positioning himself not only against the military and intelligence establishments, protected from prosecution by even wider immunities, but also against the state bureaucracy and its servants. If we take the minister by his word he is on a quixotic course no doubt. Cognisant probably of the threats ahead he pleaded his case by quoting Bashir’s media commitment to justice to Darfur.
Judging by the government’s flurry to declare Darfur settled and done with it is not far fetched to assume that the wheels of the minister’s justice are speeding to keep up with Ghazi Salah Eldin’s fast car heading for a peace agreement by the end of the year. Be that true the minister will need at least one high profile case to demonstrate achievement within the coming two months or so, probably Tabra, less politically charged than a crashing and scary judicial engagement with the reign of terror 2003-2009. The ICC mute but alive the government is hard pressed to follow through with the general recommendations of AU High Panel report on Darfur, at least to secure the good faith of an organisation that allows them breathing space, not to speak of the US Damocles sward asking for Darfur deliveries.
Now, external pressures are identifiable but what seriously threatens the minister’s promising words are the smaller streams of power in the region itself, the bizarre fiefdoms of state governors, security chiefs, military intelligence officers, police chiefs and tribal lords in the hubs of Darfur. In the words of a Chinese vice-minister for education deploring the virtual independence of such conglomerations “the central government’s control does not extend beyond the walls of Zhongnanhai (the central leadership compound in Beijing); people below just don’t listen”. May the minister test how far he can reach.