South Sudan, Darfur, and International Pressure
October 31, 2012
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Last week, South Sudan’s Vice President, Riek Machar, met with ICC Prosecutor Bensouda to discuss the case of Sudanese President Al-Bashir. South Sudan invited Al-Bashir to visit Juba to discuss several outstanding issues between the two Sudans. Although South Sudan is not a member of the ICC, since the Darfur case was referred by the UNSC, all countries, including South Sudan, are expected to cooperate with the court. Machar met with Bensouda in part to seek an “understanding” with her that South Sudan’s invitation to Al-Bashir was not meant as an act against the ICC indictment.
I found this to be interesting, both in light of our discussion of political challenges such as the lack of state cooperation, as well as the United States’ role in the UNSC referral for Darfur. Birdsall discusses how the Bush administration faced a lot of domestic pressure ahead of the presidential elections to act on Darfur, from both the human rights community and the Christian right (462). When I first started working for an international human rights and development organization in the summer of 2007, Darfur was a main focus for both the group’s advocacy and grantmaking. Just a few years later, however, despite the UNSC referral, the movement began to ebb, as Sudan began to expel humanitarian aid groups. As Peskin discussed, Bashir’s decision to expel these groups in part led to a move towards a negotiated solution to the crisis, rather than pressure to turn Al-Bashir over to the court (676).
As we saw with Uganda, there is a lot of discussion about the ICC’s effect on peace negotiations. It seems likely that the international community will continue to focus on negotiations, rather than pressure, especially as the African Union has supported Al-Bashir’s defiance of the ICC. Machar and South Sudan have their own former conflict issues to discuss with Al-Bashir; international pressure on South Sudan to hand Al-Bashir over to the ICC is unlikely due to the potentially negative effect on negotiations between South Sudan and Sudan, as well as any Darfur negotiations. With AU forces stationed in South Sudan to pursue the LRA, would it be hypocritical for the country to hand over LRA leaders, but not Al-Bashir? Will the US ever see a return to domestic pressure on this issue?