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June 17, 2009
Change in Sudan must come from within

The International Criminal Court’s efforts to secure the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes are stalling.

On Tuesday, as the United Nations released a report accusing Sudan of serious human rights violations, a presidential advisor in Sudan said the country is ready for a fresh ceasefire in Darfur.

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court’s efforts to secure the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes are stalling, as critics say the indictment has rallied the African Union, Arab League and the Sudanese people around Bashir.

Andrew Natsios, a former Bush administration envoy to Sudan, recently wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine that “In their zeal to burnish the fledgling court’s credentials with such a high-profile case, the ICC’s prosecutors have weakened the institution.”

Worldfocus contributing blogger Abd al-Wahab Abdalla writes that Sudan is at a crossroads — and change must come from within, rather than from the international community:

Sudan is at the crossroads and we need to be fully cognizant which paths will lead us off the precipice. If we fail to pay attention to where we are going we will surely destroy ourselves.

I have been challenged on accountability for war crimes. The version of accountability preferred by the so-called international community and by those who slavishly follow it within the Sudanese counter-elite is just demonization of the ruling party and individuals within it. The named individuals may be responsible for crimes but to herald their prosecution as a serious response let alone a political programme is just another symptom of the reactionary infantilism that has overtaken too many of our comrades and former comrades. On the left we failed to take political Islamism seriously and for too long we blinded ourselves that it was irrational and transient and it would go away. We demonized it instead of trying to analyze it so that we could fight it properly. As a result we tamely went along with those who also demonized it for their own reasons and applauded whatever they did such as imposing punitive sanctions or indicting its leaders. This is a non-response which has surrendered our political agency.

The only kind of accountability that offers some kind of political solution is accountability under a state that exercises democratic sovereignty. If the head of state were dragged off to the Hague and prosecuted it would not make an iota of difference to the problems of Sudan. The only lesson that our elites will learn is, make sure you are covered by a friendly ally in Paris or Washington DC before you go ahead and commit your crimes.

The arbitrary international sanctions regime and the random and politicized way in which international organizations including the ICC demand accountability only makes this worse. They function as arbitrary power (and worse, external and factional arbitrary power) masquerading as law and as such make a mockery of the rule of law or judicial accountability just as much as the existing Sudanese judiciary. The question is, which comes first: an institutionalized rule of law system or a progressive developmental political economy which provides the substructure for an autonomous state and impartial rules? It has to be the other way round: the foundation must be there first. If liberal judicial institutions are parachuted into the existing realities they will just become more tools in the toolbox of plunder and rentierism for ruling elites and counter-elites. They will be another competing faction within a politicized and corrupt judiciary. Just as in a systemically corrupt political economy, an anti-corruption drive becomes a means of the ruling elite selectively punishing its enemies, so that “weeding out corruption” becomes a tool of corruption. Ditto for accountability without a Weberian state. The objective conditions must exist first. […]

The fundamental problem of Sudan is the nature of the state-bourgeoisie in power. The solution must arise from that self-same power centre. There is no counter-elite with strong enough roots in the social economy to challenge it. Only when we face this reality can we then begin to grasp the objective constraints on our political programme. […]

To read more, see the original post.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user United Nations Photo’s under a Creative Commons license.

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