Reprehensible Strongman Bashir Removed From Power, Killed Over 300,000, Now Needs Hague Trial

It is nearing 2:30 A.M., and due to the news being reported tonight on the BBC, I am most alert and in the office.  One of the most reprehensible strongmen in the world is being ousted from power.

The village of Um Zaifa in Darfur burns after an attack by government-sponsored militia on December 12, 2004

This blog, from its early years, has had one person on the world stage, more than any other, placed in the cross-hairs of history.  Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is a brutal war criminal and butcher of the people in Darfur.  More than 300,000 people died in Darfur according to the United Nations. I have long called on the world community to right the wrongs from Darfur, and to have a not-to-be-missed response to his atrocities.

In December 2010 President Obama said of al-Bashir, “There can be no lasting peace in Darfur—and no normalization of relations between Sudan and the United States—without accountability for crimes that have been committed.” 

Let me be more blunt.

Omar al-Bashir needs to rounded up and carted off and tried for crimes against humanity.  A decade ago the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir, accusing him of war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Darfur.  If anyone doubts that fact look at the rape victims, the corpses, the burnt villages, and photos of the refugee camps.

As a high school freshman in 1977 I recall being drawn to the argument, made by the-then new American President Jimmy Carter, that human rights had to be a central feature to our foreign policy.  These decades later I am still a staunch believer in that point of view.  If anything, recent history has proved the correctness of the ‘Carter Doctrine.’  Tonight I am mindful, one way or another, that justice eventually arrives and brings its means to the job at hand.

Tonight it is reported that al-Bashir is stepping down—or more correctly being forced to remove himself from power.  Sudan has been rocked by months of anti-government protests.   The monster will be the second leader in the region to quit amid nationwide protests this month, as Algerian President Bouteflika also found it time to abandon his national thievery.

Now there must be a worldwide commitment to ensure that humanity has its day in court.  al-Bashir must stand trial in The Hague, and in so doing will allow for the victims and their families to have the justice they need.  And justice the world demands.

History Waits, Justice Delayed, President Omar al-Bashir Smiles

While I understand the larger needs and goals (in this case referendums on southern independence in Sudan) comes before emotional satisfaction, there still should be some way to better convey feelings over the madman, President Omar al-Bashir.

This is how the paper reported it this morning when President Obama spoke about the need for al-Bashir to face justice.

Without naming him, Mr. Obama said Mr. Bashir must face justice.

“There can be no lasting peace in Darfur—and no normalization of relations between Sudan and the United States—without accountability for crimes that have been committed,” Mr. Obama said.

Ouch!!

I know, I know. 

President Obama had no more pleasure limiting his remarks than I do in reading them.  And yet somewhere there needs to be a time to drop the diplomatic speak and call the  mass murderer out for what he is.

President Omar al-Bashir needs to rounded up and carted off and tried for crimes against humanity.   

Meanwhle history waits and justice is delayed.

Childhood, Stand Rock, And Gangs

As I was sitting outside this afternoon and reading a young man, no more than 19, who lives in the neighborhood walked by.  I said hello, he responded, and over a couple of minutes we engaged in fast conversation.  As we concluded our chat he said, “Well, have a nice afternoon, sir.”

As he walked away I could only think of one thing. 

Sir?

I do not feel like a ‘sir.’

But then I read a story in the newspaper that made me think that perhaps I might, after all, be a ‘sir’, or getting to that age where the word might start to apply. 

An article about the latest, fastest, and most dizzying water slides and such at the Wisconsin Dells made note of how it used it be for tourists. 

There was a day when thrills in the Wisconsin Dells area were horse-drawn wagon trips through Lost Canyon, watching a German shepherd leap the gap at Stand Rock and taking a splashing ride on a Duck.

I was one of the young kids who stood utterly amazed at the leaping dog and his owner at Stand Rock.  I was probably no older than ten when my parents took me for a ride on the boats at the Dells.    I do recall it was a weekday, and mom made sandwiches for a lunch that we enjoyed somewhere along the way.  Later at home my dad laid some rope (or perhaps it was baler twine) out on the ground to approximate the distance that I would need to leap in order to mimic what I was so amazed by at the Dells.  I would have needed the safety net!

Kids today require far more excitement so such creations as a 10-story water slide has been installed at the Dells to lure the crowds and their dollars.  Foolish me, all these years I thought riding the Ducks and getting wet was rather fun.

As I smiled about that I stumbled onto another story that made me think about an even greater distance than jumping at Stand Rock.  That is the distance between my youth and some kids today in kindergarten who show signs of gang association.

The Wisconsin State Journal had a long front-page story about the growing problems of gangs in Madison. 

What happened between me being ten, and having such innocent fun, and the story in the paper today about young kids joining gangs and being required to commit a crime, or being beaten in, or ‘sexed in’ if a girl, as an initiation right?  Where did life become so complex?  So angry?  So upside-down?

I wrote a few days ago about Sudan planning to stop the use of children soldiers for their never-ending warfare.  I applauded what I hope will be an end to such a monstrous act.  Children need to be allowed to have a childhood.

But in our own city there is a segment of kids that are trapped for whatever reason in a cycle of violence and doom that to me seems as senseless as the one in Africa.  I would hope that our society has enough programs and money to ensure that we can prevent most of these kids from slipping off the deep end.  But as the story noted a number of kids are not saved in time.

As I sat on the lawn and pondered all this I came back to whether I could clear the distance at Stand Rock today.  I am lean, limber, optimistic and am pretty certain I could.  I also thought about the  troubled kids in the newspaper and wondered if their lives would have been different had their dads put baler twine out on the lawn for them to jump over.

After all, in the end it always comes back to family.

Child Soldiers To End In South Sudan

One of the more wretched visual images in the world will end later this year, if one can believe the reports coming from Sudan.  Child soldiers will no longer we used for military purposes.   That we consider this progress in 2010 speaks volumes about where some parts of the world still reside.  To see small boys carrying weapons that nearly equal their size, or speak about warfare and killing as if they were seasoned old veterans remains an image that will linger long after these kids no longer are part of the military.  The fact remains even afterwards they will never get back what they lost.  A childhood.

The army in Southern Sudan has pledged to demobilise all child soldiers by the end of the year.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) has established a child protection unit to fulfil the pledge. The UN children’s agency estimates that the SPLA, thought to have already discharged more than 20,000 children, still includes about 900 in its ranks.

South Sudan, which fought a long civil war against the north, is to hold an independence referendum in January.Sudan’s civil war ended with a peace agreement in 2005, which committed both sides to an extensive process of demobilisation. But tensions have remained high in the run up to the referendum.

Kenya Slaps World In Face, Welcomes Genocide Maker Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir

This story was buried on the last page of section one in my morning paper.  It was a story that merited more attention, given the savage nature of Sudan’s ruler.  I often wonder how those in power can sleep after aligning themselves with slugs such as President Omar al-Bashir.  If Kenya would have stood tall and arrested the Sudanese President and sent his sorry ass to the Hauge the world would be reading about the actions of a brave African nation.  Instead the world was subjected to a sad and telling story about the failure of Kenya being able to stand up to its duties, and its failure to become a real part of the world community.

Sudan’s president, who faces charges of genocide in connection with massacres in Darfur, attended the signing of Kenya’s new constitution Friday at the invitation of the government here, deepening tensions between this East African nation and the International Criminal Court.

The court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. As a signatory of the treaty establishing the international court, Kenya is required to take Mr. Bashir into custody and turn him over to the Netherlands-based court to stand trial.

But on Friday, President Bashir sat with other dignitaries and heads of state at a ceremony celebrating the adoption of a new Kenyan constitution that aims to curb corruption, impose new checks on executive power and reduce ethnic tensions.

Clad in a dark suit, Mr. Bashir joined in releasing white doves—symbols of peace—to mark the occasion.

Political analysts said Kenya’s welcome of Mr. Bashir at such a pivotal time is a sign of Nairobi’s desire to bolster ties with Sudan, Africa’s largest country and one with which Kenya shares a border. It is also intended to serve as a pointed message to Western powers that it won’t be pushed around.

When is comes to morals and ethics no one considers it being ‘pushed around’ if the right thing is done.   Either one stands on the correct side of history, or one stands on the wrong side. 

Kenya made a decision. 

It was the wrong one.

Sudan, Election. Change?

And on it goes….

It was all supposed to turn out so differently. The election was sold as the mechanism for “democratic transformation” in Africa’s largest country. It is an integral part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed between the Muslim north of the country and the Christian and animist south in 2005. The CPA brought an end to Africa’s longest-running civil war—which had cost 2m lives and forced millions to flee their homes, often to the black belt around Omdurman and Khartoum—and was designed to resolve the country’s problems at a stroke.

A root cause of Sudan’s terrible civil conflicts has been the concentration of wealth and power in the centre at the expense of the regions: the south and also Darfur, where a full-scale rebellion erupted in 2003. It was hoped that the elections, which are being held at local, state and federal level, would make the rulers more responsive to the needs and wishes of the ruled. But this is not a prospect that particularly appeals to the two parties that have ruled Sudan since 2005, the NCP in the north and the SPLM in the semi-autonomous south.

Mr Bashir and his NCP, who seized power from Sudan’s last democratically elected government in a coup in 1989, have for the past ten years been concerned mainly with enjoying the country’s oil wealth. This has come courtesy of the Chinese, who buy most of it. Unsurprisingly, the Sudanese leaders are determined by one means or another to remain in control.

The SPLM, for its part, is focused on an entirely different election: the referendum on southern secession that was promised as part of the CPA. This is due to take place in the south next January. Should most southerners vote for independence, as they are expected to, Africa could have its first new state for almost 20 years—ruled by the SPLM.

Determined to get to the referendum without upset, the SPLM has been accused throughout the election of suppressing any opposition to its rule. Its leader, Salva Kiir, is contesting only the presidency of south Sudan, thus demonstrating that his party is now bent entirely on consolidating its position in its own backyard.

Yet even though the election may be a charade, it could have positive results. If Mr Bashir gets his way at the vote, he may be more inclined to let the south leave Sudan peacefully. This event will profoundly change the map of east Africa. It may even alter the politics of north Sudan in ways that, for now, are hard to imagine.

It is also true that despite the government’s restrictions on opposition campaigning, the Sudanese have been able to speak openly about political matters for the first time in years. The sight of opposition politicians on television, even for just 20 minutes, denouncing Mr Bashir for corruption and misgovernment has been a revelation. Now there is hunger for more discussion and more politics.

Concerns About Obama’s Sudan And Darfur Policy

Many around the world have been waiting to see how the Obama White House would address the issue of Sudan.  For me this is the top of the pile for international ‘must deal with’ issues considering the death and destruction  that has plagued Darfur.  While President Obama has many pressing foreign policy decisions to consider, the moral aspect to the Darfur crisis places this one in a special category that deserves unique attention.

Like many others I share the concern that a far too nuanced reaction has developed in the guise of a tough policy to this troubled area.  If a weak policy is born it  does not serve the people in Sudan, and will not address the call of history to right the horrors that were committed in Darfur.  I had hoped, like many others, that UN Ambassador Dr. Susan Rice’s views would prevail, and a policy with teeth would result.  She correctly called the actions in Darfur “genocide” and was ready to invest the full weight of  American policy into this nation.  But then President Obama’s Special Envoy to Sudan, Maj. Gen. Scott Gration (ret.) acted in ways to show he was reluctant to apply that pressure.  He labels the matter in Darfur as “remnants of genocide.”  I say potato you say…..

So now we will have a policy that will engage Khartoum in talks.  That can be done with rouge nations for sure.  But when it comes to Sudan who is led by a wanted war criminal it is easy to see why this nation, and the way we deal with it, must be handled different from others around the globe.  The only way to deal with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is to grab him by the nuts and twist.  And while he have a hold of him throw into the Hague!

I am very concerned that for whatever reason the Obama White House may not have a firm grip on the issues that are confronting Sudan.  I am very uneasy that we have not addressed the needs of Darfur, or the call of history.

World Options For Darfur So To Keep Million People Alive

save_darfur

Watching the film “Sometimes In April” a week ago underscored what happens when good intentioned people do nothing in the face of madmen.    The film provided a view of the gates of hell as they opened in Rwanda in 1994, where genocide was unleashed on those who had no means to defend themselves.  It was history that most of my readers here know as we lived it in our papers each day. 

The world is again at the time of either watching another mass tragedy further unfold in Darfur, or reacting with swift determination in the name of moral clarity as we say ‘NO’.  Not again.  Not this time.

As expected, the repercussions by President al-Bashir of Sudan are starting to  unfold in his next moves to limit the effects of the arrest warrant that was handed down this past week for his acts of ‘extermination.’  The butcher of Sudan has made a decision to expel aid groups that are a lifeline keeping more than a million people alive in Darfur.

This must not stand. 

President Obama, and the world community must not allow any nuanced language to cloud the need for a solid response that will not leave any doubt where the majority of the world stands.

But what are some options that can be implemented soon by Obama and the world?

The biggest immediate threat isn’t starvation, because that takes time. Rather, the first crises will be disease and water shortages, particularly in West Darfur.

The camps will quickly run out of clean water, because generator-operated pumps bring the water to the surface from wells and boreholes. Fuel supplies to operate the pumps may last a couple of weeks, and then the water disappears.

Health clinics have already closed, and diarrhea is spreading in Zam Zam camp and meningitis in Kalma camp. These are huge camps — Kalma has perhaps 90,000 people — and diseases can spread rapidly. Children will be the first to die.

Gen. Merrill McPeak, the former Air Force chief of staff and a co-chairman of the Obama presidential campaign, suggested one in an op-ed article in The Washington Poston Thursday: a no-fly zone over Darfur. The aim is to attach costs to brutality and gain leverage.

Sudan cares deeply about maintaining its air force, partly because it is preparing for renewed war against South Sudan. That means that a denial of air cover or the loss of helicopter gunships would deeply alarm Sudan’s military, and that gives us leverage.

Another option is for the government of South Sudan to take over administration of Darfur. The leaders of South Sudan have periodically offered to send 10,000 of their troops into Darfur, and if the north Sudanese government cannot provide security or look after Darfur’s needs then the south can try, with international backing.

Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state, says she was intrigued by General McPeak’s proposal for a no-fly zone and adds, “I don’t think the international community can stand by and watch as thousands more people starve to death.”