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Free for a Day: Meriam Ibrahim Released and Rearrested

Meriam Ibrahim, apostasy, women's rights, Sudan

A few days ago, my mother, who of course reads my blog posts, excitedly notified me over Facebook that Meriam Ibrahim has been released from prison in Sudan. Last week I wrote about how the court’s apostasy accusation against Ibrahim, in addition to being an egregious assault on religious freedom, was also a case study in codified misogyny. This legalized chauvinism had forced a mother to give birth shackled to the floor and had sentenced her to death--but last Monday it seemed she’d been granted a reprieve.

The international outcry against the conviction’s abuse of human rights seemed to have been answered in the Court’s latest ruling. Jehanne Henry of Human Rights watch suggested that the international pressure may have had an influence on the decision. Certainly between Amnesty International, David Cameron, and Hillary Clinton, influential voices had raised a clamour worldwide in an international campaign demanding justice for the imprisoned Ibrahim. Widespread investment and concern for the fate of one woman had transcended borders and yielded a concrete and happy result.

Still, the international community rejoiced cautiously. US Rep. Chris Smith called the release a “huge first step,” but maintained that the next was putting Ibrahim and her family on a plane to the US.

Guess Who (May Be) Coming to the UN General Assembly

Courtesy of premiumtimesng.com

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced that he is planning to come to the US to attend the UN General Assembly.  Bashir, accused of human rights abuses in the western Darfur region of Sudan, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).  If he goes through with these travel plans, the US government should arrest him and extradite him to The Hague to face charges for his crimes.

The ICC has indicted Bashir twice for crimes related to the conflict in Darfur that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.  The indictments include five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and torture.  Another two counts are for war crimes, or attacking civilians, and three counts are for genocide.

Bashir has applied for a US visa to come to the UN General Assembly and is scheduled to speak next Thursday afternoon.  If the visa is granted and he chooses to attend, Bashir will undoubtedly be met with angry protesters and shunned by most other world leaders.  His motives for wanting to attend are unclear. It's been speculated that he is simply "thumbing his nose" at the US and the rest of the world.  Some UN diplomats suspect that he may not actually make good on his threat, for fear of arrest and extradition.  But this is not the first time Bashir has tested the limits of travel under ICC indictments; in July he attended an African Union summit in Nigeria, promptly returning home when protests broke out and lawsuits were filed.

Ambassador Samantha Power: Inspiring U.S. Leadership in the UN

Vice President Biden swears in Samantha Power as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

Last night I watched a really great TED talk by Simon Sinek, called "How Great Leaders Inspire Action." The argument Mr. Sinek makes is that effective leaders inspire change not by focusing on what they do, but by focusing on why they do it. To back up his argument, Sinek cites incredibly influential leaders throughout history, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Wright brothers. These leaders changed the course of history because they focused first on the motivation behind their actions and let the outcomes be a byproduct of that motivation.

The talk ultimately made me think of a young American leader who was recently confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: Samantha Power. During this time when the UN faces many difficult issues, I can think of no one better to head U.S. leadership at the UN, largely because of the passion Ambassador Power brings to the issues she confronts. President Obama recognizes this passion, and he said in a statement following the Senate confirmation, "As a long-time champion of human rights and dignity, she will be a fierce advocate for universal rights, fundamental freedoms and U.S. national interests." Having been a foreign policy columnist, Ambassador Power has seen human rights abuses, genocide, and war from the frontlines — first-hand experiences that reaffirm her passion for the "responsibility to protect."

Creating a Comprehensive Counter-LRA Strategy

Last October, President Obama announced the deployment of 100 United States military advisors to Central Africa.  Obama hoped to combat the remaining Lord Resistance Army forces that have committed atrocities throughout the region, primarily in northern Uganda, for the past twenty-five years.  The year prior, a billed called  the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act bolstered "comprehensive U.S. efforts to help mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA to civilians and regional stability."  Moreover, a viral video launched by the US-based advocacy group Invisible Children last March briefly made the fight against the LRA a national conversation, but attention has since returned to anemically low-levels.

The Lord's Resistance Army formed in 1987 when Joesph Kony mobilized a small group of followers and attacked the northern Uganda town of Gulu. The group was partially comprised members of an earlier group called the Holy Spirit Movement created by Alice Lakwena in response to Yoweri Museveni's presidency. Kony capitalized on the power vacuum when Lakwena was exiled in 1987 and quickly radicalized the movement. The group's ideology is disputed, but it consistently espouses radical Christian beliefs and Ugandan nationalism.

ICC Prosecutor: Stronger Commitment Needed to Arrest Bashir

Outgoing International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo called on the United Nations Security Council to expedite the arrest of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir yesterday.  The United Nations does not have an independent body capable of making the arrest, but they can pressure neighboring states to arrest Bashir if given the opportunity.  Bashir currently faces two arrest warrants for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide in the Darfur conflict that killed an estimated 300,000 people.  His role in the conflict is nearly undeniable, but ICC member states are reluctant to make an arrest because of economic and military geopolitics.

The chief prosecutor's call to action obviously did not sit well with the Sudan's representative to the United Nations Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman.  He claims that Moreno-Ocampo is "ignoring the U.N. Charter" by pursuing the arrest warrant against Bashir and other Sudanese officials.  At the end of the Security Council session, he went further by calling the chief prosecutor's plea the "statement of a terrorist."  However, Moreno-Ocampo countered by saying that the representative's unwillingness to cooperate could implicate him in the crimes as well.  

Sudan and South Sudan Conflict: Update

Children in Sudan greet a UNAMID solider. Photo Credit: UN.

Early this morning, Sudan has endorsed the African Union's "peace road map" to avoid an all-out war with South Sudan. This came after South Sudan had endorsed the AU's plan themselves. The AU's plan includes seven specific steps, including a deadline of this Tuesday to restart negotiations and a three-month grace period after that to agree upon a more concrete solution.

Just yesterday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution that would take "appropriate measures," including nonmilitary sanctions, if Sudan and South Sudan did not resolve all outstanding issues, namely border disputes, uneven divisions of oil revenues, and the citizenship of Sudanese and South Sudan peoples. As previously mentioned, tensions have flared between the two nations just a few months after South Sudan's July 2011 independence, which followed a peace treaty signed in 2005. 

Calling the situation "a serious threat to international peace and security," the U.N. Security Council decided that Sudan and South Sudan must cease all hostility immediately, withdraw all armed forces to their respectable sides of the border, and activate all necessary border security measures within one week, and to immediately cease "hostile propaganda," like the comments from President Omar al-Bashir, when he called the government of South Sudan "insects." 

Sudan and South Sudan: On the Brink of War?

A woman runs during an airstrike by the Sudanese in South Sudan. Reuters

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir addressed a party rally in Khartoum last week, vowing to never compromise with the “poisonous insects” of South Sudan, using frightening rhetoric reminiscent of the Rwanda genocide. 

Although neither Sudan, nor South Sudan, have declared war on the other, Sudan littered its neighbor with eight bombs following these hateful words.  This violence has all been attributed to the disputed borders between the long-rivaling neighbors and unresolved issues over nearby oil reserves.  Since April 10, when South Sudan took control of the oil-rich town of Heglig, the two nations have been, as many describe, on the brink of war.

Prompted by the recent violence that erupted, the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing yesterday to examine the current conflict and discuss possible policy options the United States and other nations should explore in order to avoid an all-out war in the region.

Chairman Chris Smith (D-NJ) opened the hearing by noting the July 2011 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between Sudan and South Sudan was never fully implemented, with no set border or equal division of the oil revenues laid out.  Ambassador Princeton Lyman testified at the hearing, declaring that “this conflict will not be solved militarily—this is a long and deep rooted political issue.”  He further noted that what should happen immediately is a cease-fire and that the border should be demilitarized and carefully monitored: two conditions that were outlined in the peace accord in July 2011 but were never implemented.

President Obama's Message to Sudan and South Sudan

President Obama released a statement over the weekend to the citizens of Sudan and South Sudan. South Sudan, nearing its one-year anniversary of independence from Sudan in June, has been disputing borders and control of important oil-rich regions with Sudan for several months. In recent weeks, disputes have turned increasingly violent.

President Obama's message was clear, that "conflict is not inevitable," and there is still time to lay down weapons and come back to the negotiating table. He called on Sudan "to halt all military actions, including aerial bombardments; give aid workers unfettered access to people in need; and end support for armed groups." He also requested that South Sudan "end its support for armed groups inside Sudan and cease its military actions across the border." 

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Famine and Crimes against Humanity Again Strikes Sudan

South Sudan and Sudan continue to fight for territory. The regime's target is now the people in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan. More than a 100,000 residents have fled to the south after violence erupted in the contested region of Abyei. The Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has denied international relief for the people, and government military forces continue to move south, encouraged by the lack of response from around the world.

Escalating the mass murders of the Nuba and Blue Nile population, the Sudanese regime has deployed bombers to the border regions. Reporters describe being on the ground when suddenly civilians scramble to find a hiding place whenever they hear planes. Thousands are living in caves, hoping that heavy boulders will provide shelter from the bombings. The wounded have to be driven to American hospitals, more than five hours away. Sudanese officials declare that the bombers have been sent to target rebel forces; however survivors and foreign reporters argue that civilians are being targeted. Along with eliminating natural resources, government military units have captured children and raided homes. They have also allegedly fired weapons into unarmed crowds and randomly rounded people up for execution. 

The effects of these mass murders are unimaginable and long-lasting. The Sudanese people have not been able to prepare for the planting season. Villagers fear being caught in the fields when military air raids begin. U.N. officials stated that no more than 10 to 15 percent of the usual harvest will be available for the region's populations this year, resulting in famine and increasing deaths. A hunger crisis is unavoidable without humanitarian aid at this point. Even if both nations implement the February 10th nonaggression and cooperation agreement, thousands of dislocated people in the region will not have enough food to survive.

ICC Issues New Arrest Warrant in Darfur

Sudan map

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese Defense Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, stemming from the Court's investigation of crimes committed in the Darfur region.  This follows the arrest warrant issued previously for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who remains wanted by the ICC.

Hussein is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.  He is a close ally of Bashir and leader of a campaign against rebels in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile southern border states of Sudan.

ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo noted that "Mr. Hussein played a central role in coordinating ...crimes, including in recruiting, mobilizing, funding, arming, training and the deployment of the militia/Janjaweed as part of the government of the Sudan forces, with the knowledge that these forces would commit the crimes."

GlobalSolutions.org applauds the ICC for taking action and issuing the arrest warrant for Hussein.  Hopefully he will swiftly be brought to justice and held accountable, accelerating the process of bringing justice to victims in Darfur and lasting peace to the troubled region.