International fugitive heralded Sudanese presidential nominee

Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s longstanding field marshal, resigned as head of the army on Jan. 11 to accept his party’s presidential nomination for the upcoming April election.

Bashir’s primary opposition, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), is preparing to announce their own presidential candidate. While onlookers may be optimistic, the prospects of a serious running-mate seem dismal. Some have suggested that the SPLM have no intentions of proposing a candidate at all.

Regardless of SPLM efforts, Bashir is favoured to win the presidency; a disturbing thought considering that he is one of the most wanted war criminals by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Since his junta seized central authority 21 years ago, it has been estimated that 500,000 people have been killed on the expeditions to Sudan’s southern provinces. In Darfur to the west, estimates count over 300,000 dead with the wholesale displacement of about three million refugees.

In an attempt to quell the intense violence to the south and west, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was forged on Jan. 9, 2005, propped up by foreign support.

Now in the wake of the first elections since 1986, it seems doubtful that a fair election will ever be seen.

Ensuring that the CPA will succeed and that peace will ensue requires the unwavering support of foreign diplomatic and financial support: two resources promised for a fair election that have now been almost exhausted.

The elections that are planned to take place in April are tentatively considered to occur no later than July, as they have been already postponed three times.

Seeing that what little money remains eventually finds its way back to the pockets of the Sudanese bureaucracy, it is doubtful if an election will take place at all.

This is because numerous problems plague the electoral process. One problem in particular is that up to 75 per cent of Sudanese women are illiterate. As such, adequate time and money must be devoted to explaining how to vote. On Feb. 1, the British government offered 86 million USD to help counter this. However, many have claimed this action was too little and too late.

Furthermore, with so many displaced citizens to the south and west and the fear of arbitrary incarceration and extrajudicial killings at the hands of the government, it will be far from a truly national election.

As for Bashir, on March 4, 2009 the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest for crimes against humanity.

However, as the ICC has no territorial jurisdiction in Sudan, there is little hope of bringing Bashir in front of a judge.

One of the most prominent criticisms of the ICC is its lack of universal jurisdiction; the courts are unable to process any individual whose nation has not accepted the ICC doctrine.

As Sudan has not accepted the court’s policies, the only legal alternative would be to initiate an arrest if and when Bashir enters the borders of a nation who has accepted the mandate.

However, as many member states of the African Union have refused co-operation, the outlook is grim.