Africa

Sudan opposition warn ICC over al-Bashir warrant

Opheera McDoom

Sudanese opposition parties warned on Monday that an international arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir would destabilise the country.

Sudanese opposition parties warned on Monday that an international arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir would destabilise Africa’s largest country and cause “constitutional collapse”.

Many of Sudan’s political opposition had supported the International Criminal Court when it indicted government minister Ahmed Haroun and an allied militia leader last year for war crimes in Darfur.

But they feel a warrant for al-Bashir, ahead of the first free elections for 23 years in 2009, will hurt chances for peace.

“If any indictment is issued about the head of state this will create a constitutional collapse in Sudan,” said the opposition Umma Party which won the last free vote in Sudan.

The Umma party’s traditional support base is in Darfur, where five-and-a-half years of revolt by mostly non-Arab rebels has claimed 200 000 lives and driven 2,5-million from their homes, sparking the world’s largest humanitarian operation.

Al-Bashir imprisoned numerous Umma Party officials including the leader’s son and daughter following demonstrations over price rises in 2006.

“We all agree it has serious consequences on security, general order and it will threaten the lives of citizens in a serious way,” the party said in a statement.

The opposition Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said it rejected handing al-Bashir over to the Hague-based court.

“It will reflect very badly on the peace process in Darfur and in the south—this must be stopped and we must look for another compromise,” said a spokesperson Taj el-Sir Mohamed Saleh.

A senior DUP figure Ali Mahmoud Hassanein was imprisoned for months for an attempted coup last year, but was later released.

Even Bashir’s arch-nemesis, Hassan al-Turabi’s Popular Congress Party, said a South African model for truth and reconciliation was the way forward.

“If we resolve the problems of Darfur then I think all other matters connected could be resolved,” the PCP’s political head Bashir Adam Rahma said. “We can follow the South African model of truth finding, reconciliation and justice.”

Many of these parties have been targeted by Al-Bashir’s dominant National Congress Party but they do not see the ICC’s move as one which would benefit Sudan in the long-term.

The Umma party called on the ruling party to show restraint but stressed that the final warrant may not be issued for some time until after the ICC judges approve it.

Sudan’s government has said it is in informal talks with China and Russia over tabling a United Nations Security Council resolution to suspend the warrant for 12 months, which is renewable.

But even if the resolution finds support, many in Sudan think the damage will already be done. - Reuters

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