Sudanese President Omar Hassan al Bashir has – to use a colloquial phrase – been “sticking it” to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Western nations who wish to seem him on trial for alleged war crimes in his western Darfur province.
South Africa helped create this court and also has a battalion of peacekeepers in Darfur. If this is not enough to keep us interested, then how about this: The fundamental issue here is politics versus justice. It is exactly the same debate that has dogged SA since its democratic “miracle” in 1994. It may be recalled that the negotiators of that transition preferred pragmatism over principle, or if you prefer, justice took a back seat to peace.
Many local human rights activists decry this expediency to this day, asking in effect: “Peace at what price?” It is difficult not to have sympathy for their views. However, this is not the way the world works.
It was obvious from the start that the ICC would bedevil conflict resolution. Insurgency normally follows in the wake of intractable political dispute. In the case of SA, a ruling white minority was simply not prepared to share power or national resources with the majority.
Prussian military philosopher Maj Gen Carl von Clausewitz famously described war as a “continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means.” When legitimate grievance is ignored or countered with force, the aggrieved have to up the ante: bullies are always more impressed with a demonstration of strength rather than fine oratory. In most instances years of violence and atrocity follow. And that`s the rub. In most instances, insurgency and counterinsurgency settle into a form of stalemate. It is here where talks often commence for the first time and where the peace that follows is often as painful and messy as the conflict that preceded it.
Resolving war and making peace invariably involves compromise and in the case of insurgency nearly always includes some form of amnesty. Where this is not on the table, one or both sides may opt to continue to continue the conflict: the Lord`s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda is a case in point. Some years ago the Ugandan government was on the cusp of a deal with this odious movement but then the ICC indicted its leader Joseph Koni in connection with some of the atrocities committed in his name. Peace without personal liberty did not seem to mean much to Koni and talks collapsed. Since then hundreds more have died… The question I ask is: “Justice at what price?”
al Bashir is no fool. He is top dog in his patch and as his trips last week to Egypt, Eritrea and Libya and this week to Qatar show, he is not without friends. Those who seek justice must ask themselves why he would give all that up for a prison cell down the corridor from Charles Taylor in a Dutch prison. If I was a ruthless autocrat who had seized power by coup d`état, I certainly wouldn`t. Would you?
The bottom line on Darfur may well be: What is best for its people? Peace or justice? Many hold one cannot have one without the other. The SA example shows one may have to settle for less.
On an administrative note:
· defenceWeb will be on assignment on Thursday, attending the SA Air Force`s annual “air power” demonstration at the Roodewal Bomb Range in Limpopo Province. We will therefore likely not publish. I promise, however, to make it up on Friday!