Minni Minnawi, a rebel leader in the Sudanese Liberation Army, spoke out to the international community this week after the U.S. eased sanctions on Khartoum. This easing comes despite reports of renewed violence in Darfur, with 50,000 people being displaced since the beginning of 2015. An election is coming up this April, but Minnawi is not hopeful. According to Minnawi, the election is just propaganda, as Omar al-Bashir has already secured the victory. Minnawi asserted that his movement will not recognize this election as legitimate and urged the international community to not recognize Bashir as a legitimate head of state. Many opposition parties to Bashir’s regime have threatened to boycott the election.
Meanwhile, last week Washington decided to relax its sanctions on Sudan and allow some communications equipment to go into the country. South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma also met in Khartoum, calling Bashir a “dear brother” and noting the increasing cooperation occurring between Sudan and South Africa. Minnawi saw this as an insult, denying that Bashir could be characterized as a “dear brother.”
These events bring some important questions to mind. In light of the relaxation of U.S. sanctions on Sudan, is the U.S. forgoing justice in order to pursue more diplomatically advantageous relations with Sudan? Is the U.S. giving up because Bashir looks like he is going to win another election, and thus they will have to work with him? Why have no bells been rung about the potential election fraud in Sudan? Shouldn’t the AU be doing something about this fraud, as an organization meant to symbolize democratic progress in the continent? Democracy that isn’t really democracy is not worth upholding, is it? Furthermore, as we have seen in Kenya and in Cote d’Ivoire, election controversy has been a notorious instigator of violence. With Sudanese rebel groups threatening to boycott the election, calling it propaganda, post-election violence may be looming in Sudan.
Moreover, if Bashir wins again, what will that mean for the international community’s pursuit of justice against him? As we saw with President Kenyatta in Kenya, prosecuting a sitting head of state is immensely difficult. If Bashir is re-elected, as he is expected to be, pursuing justice against him may be that much harder.
Lastly, what do South African President Jacob Zuma’s comments indicate about Africa’s stance on Bashir? Based off of his comments, it appears that Zuma is more interested in cooperation with Sudan than he is with bringing Bashir to justice. Politics seem to be taking precedence over accountability, which is disturbing given South Africa’s history of apartheid.
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