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    Will Sudan’s Bashir Finally Go On Trial For Genocide At The ICC?

    Sudan’s former president, Omar al-Bashir, speaks at the Presidential Palace in Khartoum, Sudan, Feb. 22, 2019 (AP photo by Mohamed Abuamrain).
    Sudan’s transitional government appears prepared to hand former President Omar al-Bashir over to the International Criminal Court to be tried for war crimes and genocide allegedly committed during his regime’s long, scorched-earth campaign in the country’s Darfur region. The decision is reportedly part of a potential peace agreement with rebel groups still operating in Darfur. It could be an unexpected boon for the beleaguered ICC, but only if the military members of the transitional government in Khartoum don’t renege on the deal.

    The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when rebels there launched an insurgency against Bashir’s oppressive regime. Bashir relied heavily on pro-government, Arab militias known as the Janjaweed to quash the rebels. The Janjaweed were accused of mass killings of civilians and other atrocities, including rape and torture. In 2009, the ICC indicted Bashir for his alleged role; he faces five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes and three counts of genocide.

    The transitional government that took power last year, after Bashir was deposed by the military amid Sudan’s popular uprising, has prioritized ending the internal conflicts that had flared up under his regime. During negotiations this week with Darfuri rebels in Juba, South Sudan, Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, a member of the transitional authority that is made up of military and civilian leaders, announced that it is prepared to hand over everyone indicted by the ICC for committing atrocities in Darfur.

    In addition to Bashir, who is currently serving two years in a reform facility after being convicted on corruption charges in December, that includes former Defense Minister Abdel-Rahim Muhammad Hussein and a former senior security chief, Ahmed Haroun, who are both currently under arrest in Khartoum.“We can only achieve justice if we heal the wounds with justice itself,” al-Taishi said. “We cannot escape from confronting that.” He said the government and rebels will also establish a special domestic court for crimes committed in Darfur.

    The transitional government’s decision is also significant for the ICC. Bashir flouted his ICC indictment for years, including an infamous 2015 trip to an African Union meeting in Johannesburg. As an ICC signatory, South Africa was compelled to hand him over to the court, but instead, officials there allowed him to leave the country. Bashir’s defiance, along with a series of other setbacks for the ICC, contributed to a sense of irrelevancy in The Hague. A long overdue trial of Bashir offers ICC prosecutors an opportunity to deliver international justice and restore the court’s reputation.

    If Bashir makes it to The Hague, that is. There is little consensus on anything within the transitional government, fueling concern that its military members could go against their civilian counterparts and quash the arrangement. “Not only do both camps have radically different visions for the future of Sudan, they are sharply divided among themselves,”. Sudan’s top military general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, tried to allay those concerns when he assured a human rights group this week he would “cooperate fully” with the ICC as it attempts to bring Bashir to trial. Here’s a rundown of news from elsewhere on the continent:

    West Africa

    Mali: President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita confirmed this week that his government has opened a dialogue with al-Qaida-linked extremists terrorizing the country’s north. Keita had previously rejected the prospect of any negotiations. But as attacks have soared and the militants have started to expand into central Mali, Keita in a reversal sent former President Dioncounda Traore to meet with their leaders. In a simultaneous show of force, Keita dispatched troops to the militants’ northern stronghold of Kidal, which the military abandoned six years ago.

    Keita’s moves come as the U.S. military, according to a new government report this week, has downgraded its efforts in the Sahel from trying to degrade Islamist extremist groups to simply trying to contain them. European leaders, who have made security and stability in the Sahel a top priority, as last June, are pressuring Washington not to follow through on threats to reduce its troop presence in the region.

    Central Africa

    Cameroon: After a two-year delay, Cameroonians—though not all of them—finally went to the polls over the weekend under tight security to select local and parliamentary leaders. The main opposition party boycotted the vote, and election observers said that turnout was low in the western Anglophone region, where separatist violence has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

    Though results have not yet been released, President Paul Biya’s Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement is all but certain to retain its parliamentary majority. Cameroon’s parliament had twice delayed the vote over security concerns. In the run-up to the election, violence across the Anglophone region pushed 8,000 people to flee to neighboring Nigeria over the past two weeks, according to United Nations officials.

    Democratic Republic of Congo: As Congolese troops increase their pressure on the Allied Democratic Forces, the Islamist militia that has been operating in the country’s east since the late 1990s, reprisal attacks are mounting. The U.N. announced that Congolese troops had captured 40 militia fighters this week, part of a broader offensive that began in October. In turn, the ADF has ramped up its attacks on civilians, including an alleged massacre in one village last week that left at least 20 people dead. The militia has reportedly killed more than 300 people in the region since the military offensive began.

    East Africa

    South Sudan: A disagreement over the number of federal states in South Sudan threatens to upend ongoing negotiations between the government and rebels, even as the country’s neighbors signal growing impatience with its failure to implement a peace deal originally signed in 2018. In the midst of the conflict that began in 2013, the government split the new country’s 10 devolved states into 28 and later into 32, saying it would improve administration.

    The opposition supports a return to the original 10 states. The issue has been a consistent sticking point since the peace deal was signed. After missing two previous deadlines, the two sides now have until Feb. 22 to settle on the number of states and their boundaries and then, hopefully, form a transitional government. Following a meeting in Addis Ababa this week, East African leaders issued a statement saying another extension is “neither desirable nor feasible at this stage of the peace process.”

    Ethiopia: Finding an end to the continent’s protracted conflicts topped the agenda at the annual African Union summit, which wrapped up Tuesday in Addis Ababa. The summit’s theme was “Silencing the Guns.” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over as AU chair from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, said he wanted to use his one-year term to focus specifically on restoring peace in Libya and South Sudan.

    The AU had already been seeking a more prominent role in efforts to end Libya’s war; South African officials said Ramaphosa plans to prioritize reaching a durable cease-fire. Continental integration was also high on the summit’s agenda, following last year’s launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area, or AfCFTA. During the summit, South Africa’s Wamkele Mene was elected secretary-general of AfCFTA, which is meant to increase regional trade integration and industrialization. Trudi Hartzenberg, the executive director of the Trade Law Center in South Africa, discussed the most significant obstacles to implementing a contintent-wide free trade zone in July.

    Somalia: On the sidelines of the AU summit, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and the leader of the breakaway Somaliland territory, Muse Bihi Abdi, met for the first time. Somali officials described the meeting, which was brokered by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, as an “ice-breaking” effort. Somaliland declared its autonomy from Somalia in 1991 and subsequent attempts to broker reunification talks between the two sides have failed. Bihi was elected in 2017 on the promise of pushing for international recognition of the semi-autonomous region.

    Southern Africa

    South Africa: Joseph Shabalala, the multi-Grammy-Award-winning founder of the South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, died Tuesday at 78. The group rose to popularity in 1970s South Africa for their songs about love and Zulu folklore sung in an a cappella style known as isicathamiya, then rocketed to international fame following their collaboration with Paul Simon on his 1986 “Graceland” album. Nelson Mandela once called the group “South Africa’s cultural ambassadors to the world.” Shabalala, who first began performing in the late 1950s, had retired from the group in 2014 with failing health.

    North Africa

    Sudan: It was a busy week for Sudan’s transitional government, which also agreed to pay a reported $30 million in compensatation to the families of 17 American sailors killed when al-Qaida bombed their ship, the USS Cole, at a Yemeni port in 2000. The United States determined that Sudan was responsible for the attack, since the two suicide bombers who carried it out were trained there. Washington has made compensating the sailors’ families a key condition for Sudan to be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. Sudan’s prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, has prioritized getting Sudan off that list, which would ease access to international loans.

    From Around the Web

    Reflections on 1960, the Year of Africa: In 1960, 17 countries in Africa declared their independence, in what was hailed as the “Year of Africa.” To commemorate the 60th anniversary, The New York Times collected photos of events from that year from each of those countries, but also from elsewhere around the continent. Each selection of photographs is accompanied by an essay written by an African or person of African descent, including the retired Ivorian soccer superstar Didier Drogba and the Cameroonian author Imbolo Mbue.

    ‘We’re Definitely Not Prepared’: Africa Braces for New Virus: Health officials across Africa are scrambling to get safeguards in place ahead of the anticipated arrival of the new coronavirus, now identified as COVID-19, that has already killed at least 1,384 people and infected some 64,300. Although all but three of those deaths are in mainland China, the virus has spread to 24 other countries.

    Many African countries have installed new surveillance measures and set up quarantine systems, but significant gaps remain, including in communities with close ties to China. In Kitwe, a town in northern Zambia that hosts dozens of Chinese mining officials, a team of Associated Press reporters documented people arriving from China with coughs, but not being placed in isolation to be checked for infection. “If we had a couple of cases, it would spread very quickly,” a physiotherapist working at a local hospital told the reporters.

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