I was in the reception area of a downtown office in Nairobi yesterday afternoon when the International Criminal Court (ICC) based at the Hague made a live announced of its warrant of arrest against Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's current President. I watched it on CNN. The charges against him include being "personally responsible" for directing armed attacks that led to the death of over 300,000 civilians and the displacement of millions of people in Darfur Province, over a five-year period beginning in 2003. He was also accused of pillaging, but was spared, for now, an indictment for genocide, but that might still come. The five counts of crime against humanity for which he is charged include: murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape. [Click HERE for details of the indictment]
Al-Bashir thus becomes the first sitting heads of state to be so indicted. In a world of globalized justice, others will follow. Talk of national sovereighty in these circumstances is nonsensical talk. So is the talk about Al-Bashir's indictment as picking on Africa. In today's world, bad leadership (the negation of the "Good Leadership" that Nyerere championed) will increasingly pick itself up -- helped along by the disenchanted of ordinary citizens. I can already see that disenchantment in Kenya, and it has nothing to do with Al-Bashir himself; rather, with petty Al-Bashir look-alikes. Life will continue without missing a drum-beat, when eventually they are out of the way.
On this issue of Al-Bashir's indictment, Russia and China -- and the African Union before them -- must quickly change their stands before they appear to the average African to be hopelessy self-serving, hopelessly out of touch with true African aspirations, and hopeless accessories to one of the most heinous crimes of the new millennium.
In defining social action, sociologists have known, at least since Max Weber, that complicity and guilt include failure to act against crime or horror, and "passive acquiescence to the [criminal] actions of others". To this we may add: failure to raise consequential and sustained Voice. But the voices we are hearing from our leaders are voices which, incredulously, ask that Al-Bashir be left alone lest worse things happen to the Darfurians! That kind of voice is more than acquiescence -- it is active participation in the horror.
Any additional acts of horror that may befall Darfurians, as from yesterday, must perforce be laid squarely at Al-Bashir's door!
They say that you can run but you cannot hide. This seems to be particularly apt in the circumstances in which "Omer" (as I saw in some placards on CNN last night) finds himself "right now". Bluster just won't do. Al-Bashir's AU peers do not have any muscle to help him, but incriminating voices. One or two may even be headed in the same direction. So he will have company.
Here's what's likely to happen in the next six to twelve months:
1. Al-Bashir will (should) surrender to the ICC at the Hague on his own volition. This would be the most honourable thing to do.
2. Some entity in the Sudan, emboldened by the indictment, might just hand him over against predictable protestations.
3. His plane might just make an unscheduled landing at an airport in which his arrest warrant is executed.
4. We may wait for what seems to be a long time, but what goes around comes around.
5. Or the hand of God might show itself before our collective, humble hands get a hold of him.