Updated november 14th, 2012
Darfur > The current situation
On March 4, 2009, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a formal arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes in Darfur (no genocide charges were formally made). It marks the first time in history that the court has charged a sitting head of state.
Immediately following the announcement, Bashir’s government expelled 16 domestic and foreign aid groups from the country, leaving 1.1 million Sudanese without food and healthcare and 1 million without drinking water. The United Nations condemned the decision, saying it forces the departure of over 40 percent of Darfur’s aid workers, effectively suspending the world’s largest humanitarian campaign. Though the US government is working to restore as much aid as possible, the sudden expulsion is projected to cost international groups over $42 million in currency and assets. On April 16 2009, US Senator John Kerry announced a partial resumption of aid to Darfur, though specifics remain to be determined.
Despite his looming arrest warrant, President Bashir remains in control of the Sudanese government. In defiance of the charges against him, he continues to travel, most notably to Egypt, Libya, and Qatar, where he attended an Arab League summit and was welcomed by regional leaders. President Bashir also appears to be signing death warrants for Darfuri rebels being held prisoner and reportedly tortured into confession. Thus far he has sent an estimated 60 members of rebel groups to their execution. This move is thought to be a retaliatory tactic by the president against the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM): the rebel group has expressed interest in capturing Bashir following the ICC warrant for his arrest.
In the months ahead, the strength of the 2005 peace agreement between North and South Sudan will be tested, as the country has its first elections in over two decades and a self-referendum vote for the South threatens to spilt the country in two. Should he still remain in power, the international community will likely take note of Bashir’s ability to provide for free and fair elections.