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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Charging Bashir a mistake - US envoy

BY ANDREW NATSIOS

While advocates and human rights groups focused on Darfur may applaud reports of Sudan’s President, Omar Bashir, being indicted by the International Criminal Court, they should think again about their enthusiasm. The question all of us who care about what happens to the long suffering Sudanese people must ask is this: what are the peaceful options for a way out of the crisis facing the country and what measures are likely to move the country closer to that way out rather than further away?

Without a political settlement Sudan may go the way of Somalia, pre-genocide Rwanda, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo: a real potential for widespread atrocities and bloodshed as those in power seek to keep it at any cost because of the alternatives. An indictment of Bashir will make it much more difficult for any country or international organization to help negotiate a political settlement with the Sudanese government.

Some forms of pressure may force the Sudanese government to negotiate a political settlement, some will only make their leaders more intransigent: an indictment is clearly in the later category. The regime will now avoid any compromise or anything that would weaken their already weakened position because if they are forced from office they face trials before the ICC. Free and fair elections are now much less likely, if they ever happen. They are much more likely to be rigged or if Bashir’s party loses them they will refuse to comply with the results just as Mugabe has in Zimbabwe.

Mr Natsios is the former US Special Envoy for Sudan and former Administrator of USAid.

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