The tribulations of ousted president Omar al-Bashir have deepened after Sudanese authorities agreed to hand him over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face genocide and war crimes charges.
Bashir is wanted by the ICC over the killing of around 300,000 people and displacement of 2.5 million others in the 2003 Darfur conflict.
The decision to send him to The Hague-based court is significant not only for the people of Sudan but also for the rest of Africa and the entire world.
If the handover actually happens, it will give hope to residents of Darfur that justice will be done — that finally someone would pay for the innocent blood that was shed.
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Importantly, the move might help to bring peace and healing to the restive nation, which is still recovering from months of debilitating protests that dislodged Bashir from power last year and which has experienced protracted conflicts in some regions like Darfur. In fact, bringing Bashir, and the others wanted by ICC, to justice is one of the concessions made by the Sudanese delegation that was negotiating with rebels in Darfur.
But perhaps the biggest lesson for Sudan and the world is that no crime will go unpunished, however long it takes. Since he was charged by the ICC for the crimes in 2009, Bashir had been confident he would never face the ICC.
The dictator was so confident during his rule that he even brushed aside fears that he would be arrested if he ventured outside Sudan and visited Kenya and South Africa. But unlike then, it is unlikely any external forces will offer him any form of protection. He has clearly run out of luck.
That should serve as a warning to leaders, including in Kenya, who are used to shedding innocent blood with impunity for their political ends. However long it takes, they will be brought to book.
ICC, too, must rise to the occasion. For long it has, rightly, been seen as a toothless bulldog. The Kenyan case collapsed, not because crimes were not committed. According to an internal audit of the Kenya case, the prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo was a lone ranger who, as a consequence, did not carry out thorough investigations. ICC must ensure cases are properly investigated and the right people charged. In the absence of that they will only be giving victims false hope.
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That said, we strongly admonish the Sudanese military against shielding Bashir from facing the law. If they do, they will have let down the people of Sudan. They will be a stumbling block to the change that the citizens crave for; a transparent country where no one is above the law, after 30 years of Bashir’s dictatorship.