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Sudan: The Ocampo Affair

Image by Heba Aly. Sudan, 2008.

The move by the International Criminal Court to have Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir arrested for crimes of genocide and war crimes in Darfur has been all the rage in the past few days, both in the International press and here in Sudan. Endless opinion pieces in Sudanese newspapers have denounced the move. Daily, people who support the president have protested outside embassies who support the ICC, calling the decision "racist" and "unfair".

They say the ICC is holding Sudan to a higher standard than say, the US, which they see as also responsible for their actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. It sounds much like the anti-US sentiment I have heard in other parts of the Arab world. One man called those American actions genocide too - I'm not sure he understood what the word means. Sometimes, I think these people have been given lines to rehearse and say to the media, and the extent to which they understand and believe in what they are saying is questionable ...

But that's not to say there is nothing real about the anger over this decision. I think the biggest issue for people here is the perceived violation of sovereignty. I talked to one taxi driver who said he wasn't a fan of Bashir, "but even if the devil was our president, no one would approve of this ICC decision" because Sudan is a sovereign country and "we should be the ones to remove him."

Of course, people who have been affected by Bashir's policies are much less concerned about sovereignty. One Darfurian I spoke to said he hoped this decision would bring some focus to the issue of accountability among Sudanese government officials.

My biggest fear is that this big media explosion will die down, and everything will remain as is. ie. the situation in Darfur will continue. Sudan ignored the first two arrest warrants against the former state minister of the interior (who is now minister of humanitarian affairs and was appointed to lead an investigation into human rights violations in Darfur - ha!) and a janjaweed militia leader. Who's to say they won't do it again?