Haytham Nouri, 28 May 2015, Al-Ahram (Egypt)
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir is apparently unfazed by the growing problems in his country and his indictment by the International Criminal Court, writes Haytham Nouri
Unfazed by international opprobrium and internal dissent, Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir will start a new and almost certainly turbulent fifth term in office on 3 June. Meanwhile, all around him Sudan seems set to slide deeper into turmoil, poverty and suffering. In Darfur, tribes that were formerly aligned with the government are fighting against one another in a bid to grab land. In Blue Nile, the Sudanese army is waging a war against local insurgents, leading to the displacement of thousands of civilians.
Nearly 200 people have died on both sides in recent clashes between the Ruzayqat and Maalya tribes over agricultural land in Abu Karinka in Darfur. The fighting, which broke out in mid-May, is over land that the government gave to the Ruzayqat, overlooking the fact that many of the Maalya tribe already lived on it. Unless the government redistributes the land more fairly, such incidents are likely to recur, says Abdallah Abdel-Rassoul, a political science professor specialising in Darfur affairs. “At present, the Ruzayqat fighters are back in their areas in south Darfur, but once the rainy season ends in late September, battles may restart,” he notes.
According to Abdel-Rassol, part of the problem is that tribal leaders keep inciting their followers to wage war. Opposition groups in Sudan also claim that the government had prior knowledge that the two tribes were preparing for battle but failed to take precautionary measures. The East Darfur governor rejected a UN proposal to deploy international forces to separate the two tribes. Civil society groups say that the Ruzayqat deployed 7,000 fighters in battle armed with rocket-launchers, machine guns and riding 4WD vehicles.
Al-Wathiq Kamir, a Sudanese academic and activist, says the tribes are fighting over the land because they sense the government is losing control. Since the beginning of the year, various tribes have met each other in battle in various parts of Darfur, he adds, with the Berti fighting the Ziyadiyah and the Mahamid fighting the Ruzayqat, among others. According to Kamir, the current situation is likely to end up in the “disintegration of the Sudanese state.” “Most of the tribes that were once allied with Al-Bashir have started their own insurgencies,” he notes.
Meanwhile, the Khartoum government has sent its air force against the insurgents of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) in the south Blue Nile. Sustained bombardments of various villages have led to a mass exodus of civilians, according to locals. Fayda, a humanitarian group operating in Blue Nile, said that 1,700 families had left the area to flee arson and bombardment. Some had been forcibly evicted by government troops, it said.
Fayda Chief Nagwa Kanada said that the fighting in the south Blue Nile, which began on 19 April, had followed unsubstantiated claims by Khartoum to the effect that the villagers in the region were collaborating with the SRF. According to Kanada, “the government troops and air force are using more firepower against civilian villages than they are against SRF positions.”
Alaa Al-Din Abu Madyan, a Sudanese author, says that the conflict in the south Blue Nile and South Kordofan has mutated into a war against civilians. Meanwhile, the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), a human-rights group based in South Africa, has called for the arrest of the Sudanese president as soon as he sets foot in the country to attend the African Summit slated for mid-June.
According to South African Websites, SALC director Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh has sent letters to the country’s ministers of justice and international relations telling them that South Africa, which has ratified the Rome Statute setting up the International Criminal Court (ICC), is under an obligation to arrest Al-Bashir upon his arrival in the country. The SALC succeeded in blocking an earlier visit by Al-Bashir to South Africa in 2009.
The ICC has issued an arrest warrant against Al-Bashir for his alleged involvement in war crimes and genocide. He is the first sitting president to be indicted by the ICC, which has also handed the UN a secret list containing the names of 55 Sudanese officials wanted for war crimes. Sudanese writer Mahjoub Saleh said that Al-Bashir would not be affected by the ICC arrest warrant, as he travels exclusively to Arab and African countries that have not signed the Rome Statute. But Al-Bashir’s appearance in any country is likely to cause embarrassment to the host government, even if the latter has not signed the Statute, Abu Madyan commented.
Egypt has not ratified the Rome Statute, but several groups have stated their objections to a possible visit to Khartoum by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to attend Al-Bashir’s swearing-in ceremony in June.