Sudanese leader arrested as a feel-good gesture

November 18, 2008 — by Uttara Sivaram

Surely Sudan can sleep more soundly at night, since the recent arrest of Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb, a most sought after criminal and terrorizer of Sudanese civilians. At least, that’s what the Sudanese government wants the international community to think. They continue to keep him under confinement in Sudan, despite the International Criminal Court’s pleas to hand him over. The gesture is appreciated, but there’s no denying the hollow symbolism.

This war in Darfur can be traced back to its beginnings early in 2003, when rebel groups, the Sudanese Liberation Army/Movement (SLA/SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) pitted themselves against Sudan’s government backed militia—the ethnically Arab Janjaweed. Enraged by the unpatriotic and insubordinate attitude of the rebels, the government used their troops to launch a campaign of “ethnic cleansing,” which effectively started the systematic annhilation of civilians sharing the same non-Arab ethnicity as the rebels. By October 2007, this mass murder became acknowledged by the U.S. government as genocide, as an estimation of 400,000 people lost their lives and nearly two million were driven from their homes.

Arresting Kushayb is an admirable act for the Sudanese government, already under grave disapproval for their funding of the Janjaweed militia. Despite the arrest of a primary Sudanese thug, the atrocities in Sudan continue to rage unchecked, and the brutality is nowhere close to an end.

The international court has also indicted the Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir on the charge of genocide, but the arrest warrant languishes in ICC bureaucracy. Despite being indicted as a criminal, Bashir continues to rule Sudan, turning a deaf ear to the charges against him. In other words, the Sudanese president has been asked to visit the principal’s office and a rowdy thug has been put in detention.

By itself, the arrest of Kushayb is a detail hardly worth mentioning, since it is an act of prevention, not a solution. However, placed alongside the frustration of the slumbering international community, the issue becomes larger than it actually is. Suddenly, the world is reawakened to the plight of Sudan, overcome with disbelief that this dire situation has not already been taken care of.

The international court can indict, serve warrants and make formal declarations with good intentions but must have tangible progress. Stronger action is needed now. Take, for example, the financial crisis raging back at home. When the banks failed, the world went into a frenzy, sending French leader Nicolos Sarkozy, UK prime minister Gordon Brown and German chancellor Angela Merkel on the first flight to Camp David.

The time, money and effort that these leaders are contributing to the U.S.’s financial crisis should be invested in Sudan, and the massive response to the market crash should not only have been duplicated to help this African nation—it should have been multiplied even further.

Sudan cannot seriously believe that the diversion Kushyab’s arrest provides will satisfy the impatience and dissatisfaction felt by the majority of the world. Indictments and jailings are no substitutes for the written declarations of peace and serious legislation that must be undertaken sooner rather than later. National leaders from across the globe must come together and hammer out a plan with the Sudanese government to protect its civilians.

This proposal must include an international force marching into Darfur for the sole purposes of terrorist intimidation and the preservation of lives. A constant stream of funding from all leaders involved is required for this plan to succeed—not for the donor’s eminence or heroic status, but rather as a sincere symbol of peace.

Though military force is unavoidable, this undertaking must appear as simply an act of repair and equanimity, and not alienate the borderline nations, chiefly China and Russia, teetering on the edge between disapproval and indifference to Darfur’s plight. It is also the world’s responsibility to assist in the rebuilding of Sudan for as long as needed. If the plan of restoring Darfur as part of a peaceful nation succeeds, it is vital that America help the newly liberated civilians to clean up the crumbling nation.

Kushyab is but a mere pawn in this chess game. If the world can unite itself, Sudanese civilians will no longer have to worry about their cruel oppressors, much less individual terrorists like Kushyab. The time for idly arresting terrorists and then sitting pretty is over. So without any further delay, nations across the globe must pry themselves away from their bank lobbies and stock-measuring line graphs to help a country that is quickly fading further into bloody oblivion.

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On March 27, members of the Air National Guard converted the Santa Clara County Convention Center to a temporary federal facility for about 250 coronavirus patients. The center is to house those who have tested positive for the virus, but don't require intensive in-hospital care. More information can be found through the local news. Photo courtesy of Randy Vazquez of the Bay Area News Group.

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