News today that the ICC (International Criminal Court, and not the International Cricket Council) would be seeking the arrest of the African country’s president Omar Al-Bashir for his role in the terrible genocides in the region does seem like a little bit of an empty gesture. While it’s good to see the international community finally try to move to take action to bring those involved in one of the continent’s darkest episodes to account, it does smack of guilt over the inaction from the western world at the time.
Understandably, the Sudanese government doesn’t recognise the ICC, and there’s still question marks over whether a warrant, or even an arrest should that come, would even materialise. But, just as depressing as the slowness of action, so long after the 2003 tragedy, is the Sudanese government’s insistence that it never happened. Like others before them, be it Rwandans, Pol-Pot, and Hitler, denial is the safe haven for those that seek to erase it from, at least their own, history.
Questioned today on 5 Live, a spokesman for the government passed the affair off as a set of tribal disturbances, between local militias (and not the infamous janjaweed) and said that there were only 17 reported rapes in the whole period of the bloodshed. It’s both staggering, but also unsurprising, those in power moving to wipe the memory of the episode off their consciences as well as their history books.
But the biggest question to come of this is that, by making such a public statement from the ICC, has this very action, borne for the right reasons, even if the wrong time, begun to cause more instability in the region? The UN are withdrawing troops fearing retaliation, and fears from aid groups that this will again place the millions of already displaced people at risk once more.
So, what’s the answer in the end? Probably different depending on who you ask, but I can’t help feeling that it’s too little too late, a gesture of intervention when we should have acted in 2003…..