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SA has become a partner in Bashir's crimes

BY ABDELGADIR MOHAMMED,

When the news spread that the High Court in Pretoria had issued an order banning President Omar al-Bashir from leaving South Africa pending an urgent application for his arrest and surrender to the International Criminal Court, the victims of his crimes and their families and friends were confident that Nelson Mandela's country would not let them down.

They were confident that the country which had taught the world the first lesson in the fight against racism and apartheid was on its way to present the second lesson by establishing justice and redress for the victims of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity committed by Bashir and his government against the Sudanese people.

Thousands of elated Sudanese started exchanging congratulations and sat glued to their televisions or monitored the internet, waiting for news of his arrest.

The truth behind Bashir's great escape

Their belief in the integrity and independence of the South African judiciary was strong, so their confidence that Bashir would be arrested was also firm.

A huge sense of disappointment and discontent gripped a large segment of the population when they learnt that Bashir had been allowed to leave South Africa. How had your government allowed itself to help a fugitive criminal escape justice?

The action of your government, President Jacob Zuma, in conniving with Bashir is as heinous and ugly as the murder, destruction, mass rape, burning of villages and killing of civilians practised by his government every day in Sudan.

Did your government not know that the man had killed hundreds of thousands of people in Sudan's restive western region of Darfur? And more in South Kordofan? And thousands in Blue Nile state?

Did your government not know that his militia still carry out atrocities today?

During the past 12 years, the people of Darfur have never enjoyed tranquility or peace. Bashir's soldiers and militias have launched frequent attacks on the civilian population, spreading havoc and burning villages, schools and hospitals, and even places of worship.

In Darfur alone, Bashir has killed thousands and displaced millions who have been forced to flee, many of them to Chad and other countries neighbouring Sudan.

His Antonov warplanes have been bombarding villages, hospitals and schools and killing hundreds of civilians in South Kordofan, on the border with South Sudan, for four years now. Thus, the caves and forests have become the only safe shelter for the people of the Nuba mountains.

Conniving with Bashir is as heinous as the murder and mass rape practised by his government

A few months ago, Sudanese army helicopters bombed the only hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in the town of Kaduqli in South Kordofan, leaving the residents of those areas without any medical care.

At the beginning of June, the UN announced the displacement of 2825 families from the Bao locality in Blue Nile after Sudanese army soldiers burned four villages, claiming they supported anti-government rebels.

Bashir's government has decided to deny access to relief and humanitarian aid to affected people in war and conflict zones.

The UN and the humanitarian organisations operating in Sudan complain that the Sudanese government is imposing restrictions on the movement of their employees and denying them access to deliver humanitarian assistance.

Bashir's government is using food as a weapon in the war.

Media reports talk about the mass rape of hundreds of women in the village of Tabet in North Darfur.

Bashir's government did not let the UN conduct an independent investigation to uncover the facts.

In the big cities, away from the war zones, Bashir's militias also practise murder, lynchings and the ugliest forms of torture against anyone who criticises his government.

At the time when your government was arranging to smuggle Bashir away from the grip of justice, his soldiers in Khartoum were shooting unarmed citizens who were marching peacefully to demand their right to government services, and killed one protester.

They also arrested and injured dozens of peaceful demonstrators.

In September 2013, Sudanese youth took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations to denounce higher food prices. In only two days, Bashir's bullets claimed the lives of nearly 200 people who were demonstrating peacefully in the cities of Khartoum, Omdurman and Wad Medani against the rising prices.

Bashir and his militias are silencing their critics with brutal efficiency, as opposition parties are deprived of their right to peaceful assembly and the right to organise.

Journalists in Bashir's Sudan are deprived of their right to express their views. Since the beginning of this year alone, Bashir's government has confiscated copies of various newspapers in Khartoum.

The Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service is imposing strict control over local newspapers and mass media, and is also seeking to intimidate journalists who report on the country for international news agencies.

Al-Bashir's arrest would have been a disaster for Africa

Dozens of journalists are facing criminal complaints and charges punishable by execution for expressing their views.

Do you know that the news of the failed Bashir court order in South Africa was covered by Khartoum newspapers only as a victory over the ICC?

The detention centres and prisons of the Sudanese security service are packed. Some detainees were arbitrarily incarcerated and deprived of their liberty without proper charges being brought against them.

The majority of them are peaceful demonstrators or civilian activists.

The atrocities committed by Bashir's government are countless and Sudan cannot progress unless justice is served for the victims.

But your government has undermined the efforts of justice.

It has become a partner in the crimes of Bashir and his government.

This not only harms the reputation of South Africa, but is a deep wound in the hearts of the victims of the crimes of Bashir and his government.

  • Mohammed is a freelance journalist, researcher and human rights analyst based in Khartoum