The ICC Indictment of the Sudanese Dictator!

Here are the Consequences of the ICC indictment of the Sudanese military and religious dictatorial regime in Sudan and its political impact internationally in the lights of what should be done to save Sudan.

The ICC Indictment of Bashir: A turning point for Sudan?

The Crisis Group has published the following report on the ICC indictment of the military and religious regime leader in Sudan.

  1. The consequences of the indictment
  2. What should be done
Today's decision by the judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue a warrant of arrest for Sudanese President Omar Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur is a welcome and crucial step towards challenging the impunity that has worsened conflict in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan.

The Sudanese government must exercise restraint in its response to the decision, and ensure that its actions do not undermine the opportunity to achieve peace in Sudan.

It must also take genuine steps to transform the political institutions and policies that drive conflict in Sudan.

The response by the Sudanese people, their government, the region and the international community will help determine whether this is the beginning of genuine democratic transformation in Sudan, or whether Bashir's regime, including the army and other security services, will continue on their destructive path.

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The consequences of the indictment

For the Sudanese government, the implications of Bashir's indictment are complex and critical. It will force the ruling majority, the National Congress Party (NCP), to recognise that international efforts to prosecute those responsible for atrocities in Darfur cannot be readily evaded.

This realisation may bring into the open simmering tensions within the highest levels of the NCP over the strategy and tactics pursued by the regime's leadership in recent years. Increasingly there are those within the senior ranks of the NCP who believe that Bashir's policy of confrontation with Sudan's peripheral regions (such as Darfur, Kurdufan, Eastern and Southern Sudan) has been counterproductive, and will lead to much greater destabilisation and international isolation.

Still, Bashir and his security apparatus are entrenched in their positions, and continue to claim that the ICC is a tool of those seeking "regime change" in Sudan.

Bashir's regime has already issued veiled threats against the UN and AU missions in Sudan, the international humanitarian agencies operating there and Sudanese who support the ICC prosecution.

It could also direct, or encourage, violence against the millions of displaced Darfuris living in camps in the war-torn region. There are signs that it may also declare a state of emergency and clamp down on internal political opposition, to show the Darfur rebel groups that they will not be able to use this development to their military and political advantage.

Such actions would risk further destabilising the country, given the inevitable opposition from many within Sudan, and likely international condemnation, including from its African and Arab allies. The Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), the NCP's partner in government, would strongly oppose the declaration of a state of emergency, and may well pull out of the North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in the event of a unilateral declaration. This risks plunging Sudan back into widespread conflict.

There are also internal NCP constraints. In addition to divisions on strategy, powerful figures within the NCP and in the top ranks of the Sudan Armed Forces have grown wealthy from economic investment in Sudan, and will be keen to ensure that such investment is not driven away by a violent over-reaction to the indictment.

Sudan's international allies have a strong interest in the country's stability, and they too must pressure the regime to react with restraint. In particular, China, with its very significant stake in the oil industry, Egypt with its interest in regional stability and access to the Nile waters, and Gulf states with big economic investments in the country should push Sudan not to lash out.

Given internal tensions within the regime, the indictment itself may provoke change. Bashir's delegitimisation in the eyes of both external actors and the Sudanese population may empower those opposed to the security-focused approach of the NCP hardliners. The prospects of Bashir's isolation and even removal are real, but unlikely. The more likely outcome is that he will remain in power with no prospect of ending up before the ICC any time soon.

But the status quo is not tenable either. The potential collapse of the CPA and a consequent return to conflict pose a huge risk of national disintegration – an outcome feared by the regime and its neighbours.

And Sudan is in an increasingly parlous economic state now that its oil revenues have fallen dramatically. Economic partners are likely to be increasingly wary of the reputational costs of dealing with a country headed by a leader indicted for atrocity crimes.

To preserve its economic interests and guarantee its survival, the NCP is likely to look for a way out of the situation. In the past, it has responded to international pressure by making tactical concessions and stalling for time.

The regime's recent signing of a "declaration of intent" in Doha, Qatar, with the rebel Justice and Equality Movement must be analysed in this context. While it is a useful first step to relaunch the Darfur peace process, too many such commitments have been violated in the past for it to be taken as evidence of a change in approach.

The time has now come for a genuine change in the NCP's policies.

What should be done?

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