Sunday, 29 August 2010

What to do with Bashir (2)

In response to Bashir’s Kenya adventure the ICC prosecutor made a set of muddled statements that drag him further in the political mud he set out to avoid. Furthering the cultural argument Ocampo stated that Bashir was abusing African hospitality. The Kenyan authorities however made the politically valid point that the stakes were simply too high. As a neighbour of Sudan and a guarantor of its land mark peace agreement Kenya’s interests do not permit endangering the region’s stability. Ocampo, in the course of enlisting Bashir’s arrest evasion strategies, further named threatening Western nations with backtracking on the peace with Southern Sudan, and providing incentives for Western companies, French, British and American. He then asked members of the Security Council to implement the measures necessary to confront Bashir’s tactics.

Of course, it is these same members of the Security Council, whom Bashir attracts with investment packages, and tantalised with threatening regional stability. The prosecutor is surely not so politically naive as to believe that the president of a state, African even, could be arrested without international diplomatic approval. For the time being, that approval remains lip service to domestic blocs in Western constituencies, but on no account a serious proposition. Emasculated, Ocampo proposed in conclusion that the Sudanese authorities arrest Bashir! Here, he fathoms a political truth without really meaning to. Bashir’s fate, as an individual accused of criminal responsibility, cannot be divorced from the office he occupies. Overcoming impunity at this level and wrestling it away will surely require more than a legal framework even if as exquisite as the Rome Statute, it is a political task of first degree.  As long as Bashir can manage power in Khartoum he is relatively insulated from claims made by a facsimile prosecutor. Bashir’s government is not just a domestic oppression machine. It has a local constituency and power base, and it is run by a shrewd elite versed in exteriority.

Western powers on the other hand, may well abhor genocide when publicised, but may even admire the social engineering experiments of the Sudanese government targeted conclusively at subjection of Darfur’s resources, human beings included, to the ‘rational’ rule of free market enterprise. What Bashir has done in Darfur is not entirely an exception to the administrative ideology of the colonial Sudanese state and its post-independence heir, whereby territory precedes population and resources outmerit life. The claim can even be made that Bashir’s punitive campaign in Darfur, economic calculations considered, carries reasonable resemblance in methods and objectives to the British punitive campaigns in the Nuba Mountains during the 1920’ and 1930’s, whereby the British administration of Sudan sought to extend state rule and to re-aggregate populations as to allow more profitable land use and the commodification of agriculture.

I guess before the Sudanese state captures Bashir, the Sudanese people will have to capture the state and rein it to their demands. In the mean time, Ocampo is advised to read some African political economy. 

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This work by Magdi El Gizouli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.