Thursday, July 2, 2009


There is so much going on now. In Zimbabwe, a very sad accident between Morgan Tsvangirai’s car and a lorry caused the death of his wife. Mugabe visited Morgan in the hospital and said kind words about him.

Madagascar has had rather frightening developments. The country was on the verge of civil war, and the head of the army gave the President Marc Ravalomanana and the opposition leader Andry Rajoelina 3 days to settle their dispute. But pro-opposition forces forced the head of the army to resign. Rajoelina (the mayor of the capital Antananarivo), the opposition leader, then took over the government through an army-backed coup, and Rajoelina was sworn in on the 21st of March. The African Union (AU) and the South African Development Community (SADC) have denounced the coup which is in violation of the SADC treaty and AU charter. South Africa doesn’t recognize the government since it was not democratically elected. SADC has called on the AU and the world not to recognize Rajoelina’s rule and to press him to return Ravalomanana back to power. In fact, Mr. Ravalomanana has been invited to the next SADC summit on the 30th of March.

Qaddafi on the other hand (who gained power through a coup 40 years ago) called Rajoelina and told him he would recognize the new regime. After the call, though, the AU suspended Madagascar from the AU giving 6 months to return rule to the previous regime.

Rajoelina says he is clear of wrongdoing as the previous leader Ravalomanana (after his presidential palace was already seized) “voluntarily” gave power to a military directorate who then handed power to himself. We’ll see what transpires in the future. For now, Ravalomanana has taken refuge in South Africa.

Floods have ravaged Mozambique and Namibia and many of the people are suffering from the brutal weather attack which has ravaged homes and food supplies.

The Pope made a tour through African through countries like Cameroon and Angola. In Cameroon he made a statement that Africa has been disproportionally ravaged by climate change, financial problems, poverty, hunger. When asked about HIV and condom use, he said HIV would be defeated through chastity, abstinence, and right behavior. Though, I believe in applied concepts like chastity and abstinence, I know that condoms are helpful as studies have shown. I believe the pope and the Catholic church is probably more concerned about promoting extramarital (includes premarital) sex. The problem is that HIV is even passed within a marriage, and some cardinals said that should at least allow condom use in a marriage where one partner is infected.

In the report on the pope’s words in the Economist, the magazine connects this to an incident in Brazil in which a 9 year old girl was repeatedly raped by her stepfather and was now pregnant with twins. The church refused to condone an abortion and excommunicated the doctors who performed the abortion and the girl’s mother while the rapist himself was not excommunicated.

One of the biggest pieces of news in Africa is the issue of an arrest warrant for the president of Sudan, President Omar al-Bashir. The problem is how is anyone going to get him to appear at the Hague before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC dropped the charges of genocide even though it can be reinstated with more evidence later. For now, the warrant reads that he has been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for the violence that is happening in the Darfur region of Sudan. President Bashir told his critics they can take the accusations, dissolve them in water, and drink them. That made me laugh. The arrest warrant was issued March 4th.

And now, a month later he’s still well and free. Interestingly, there people in the country of Sudan who are not part of the persecuted tribes who dislike the President very strongly for failed promises and not doing enough in the country to help people. However even these people from tribes who are free from persecution yet dislike the president—even these people disagree with the arrest warrant.

First, the Sudanese people are somewhat disgraced by an international arrest warrant. In other words, they know there are problems, but they feel they should be the ones to handle it. To them, it is an internal issue. Even if person A, a Sudanese citizen, dislikes his president, he is protective of his president to the outside world. This is similar to the phenomenon between siblings while growing up where the older sibling fights with the younger sibling but protects the younger sibling outside the family.

Secondly, from talking to my Sudanese friend, even though what the government allows is wrong, the tribes outside the Darfur region (Muslim tribes) see the persecuted tribes as unrighteous or people who are living unholy lives in terms of living practices. It has never been stated in my presence, but it’s almost implied that this is what happens when people live badly.

Lastly, unrelated to Sudanese perspective, there are more people responsible for what is happening. I’m certain the ICC realizes this and it’s only an attempt to bring someone, the top person, to justice and bear the responsibility for what is going on. Some hope the warrant will deepen fissures in the government and force him out.

Now there are already warrants out for the humanitarian affairs minister and the leader of the government-supported “janjaweed” militias perpetrating the violence. The problem with a warrant against the president is that not every country agrees with it, and the ICC (like the UN) has no money, no military, no power on its own. It is completely dependent upon member countries. So the 108 countries that ratified the Rome treaty bringing the ICC into existence must bring President Bashir in. But even the Sudanese people are not going to hand him over. This is not that strange if you remember (from earlier writings) that even the US, stated in national security policy, protects its own citizens from prosecution in the ICC. And the US is not part of the Rome Treaty after the Clinton administration signed it because the Bush administration removed the U.S. from the agreement (neither is China, nor Russia; my guess is that if you’re not willing to join such a group and you protect your citizens from prosecution from the group, you may have citizens that have done acts that can be interpreted as criminal by such an international court). So it’s natural for countries to protect their own, but multilateral cooperation is necessary and important in such matters if any judicial and prosecuting work is to be done.

But now the African Union (AU), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and even the Security Council on the UN is split over what should happen. They were even split about whether or not to pursue the president.

The tough part is that Sudan then threw out most of the Western aid agencies after the arrest warrant was issued. The question in people’s minds is “Is pursuing Bashir worth the costs?” Keep in mind that they do not even have Bashir in custody, and who knows if they will?

The ICC is independent of the UN, but he Security Council of the UN can refer cases to the ICC (especially when it falls outside of Security Council jurisdiction) and they can renewably defer current cases before the ICC for a period of a year (and so indefinitely).

But other international war crime cases do go on and with American support. Sierra Leone has completed all its trials and special tribunals except against former President Charles Taylor. Milosevic died before his trial was over and may have lost had he been alive. The Yugoslav court cases continue and they are down to a few more though they still await the surrender of two big Serb suspects (Ratko Mladic, ex-commander of the Bosnian Serbs is one of them). The Rwandan court still has left to tackle the cases against the supporters of the Tutsi-led Kagame Rwandan government. The Economist believes these will prove hard. Meanwhile, if Kenya doesn’t prosecute people who perpetrated the Kenya election violence in 2007, Kofi Annan will hand over a list of names to the ICC.

So justice is moving on. Remember, though, the ICC can only prosecute for four crimes—“aggression” (not well defined), war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. And the ICC can only conduct cases against individuals (not states) when no other court, region, or country will not or cannot do so. So those cases I just mentioned are not ICC court cases. The ICC has yet to win a conviction and just started its first actual case in January which had a major setback.

For more on the debate over the ICC and President Bashir check out humanitarian bloggers at the following links.

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