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July 16, 2008

Genocide Charges Against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir may have genocide charges brought up against him Monday. The International Criminal Court is expected to seek an arrest warrant for genocide for the violence and killings that have occurred in the Darfur region of the country. Over 300.000 people have been murdered by militia in the region and the violence continues to rage.

Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is expected to announce the warrant for al-Bashir making him the first sitting president to have such charges brought up against him. About 2,00 supporters of al-Bashir gathered to hear him speak holding signs that said “Detah to America” and “You are joking…Ocampo who?” Officials at the presidential palace in Sudan called the charges stupid and promised more trouble if the warrant was issued.

The crimes that al-Bashir is charged with center around the counter-insurgency that the Sudanese government started against the rebels in the western Darfur region in 2003. The government went along with Arab militias that traveled from one village to the next raping, torturing and murdering people. Tribes that supported the rebels were the people that were subjected to these treatment. So basically, in order to stop insurgency or anyone that wanted a different government, Arab militias were allowed to massacre people.

Most of the western world and the United Nations have characterized this as genocide. The government of Sudan does not see it as such. The major problem with these charges is that there will be backlash and it will effect humanitarian aide workers. As workers try hard to provide aide for the people that need it, this kind of announcement put them in danger.

2.5 million people have been forced from their homes in the Darfur region of Sudan. 300,000 people have been murdered. Surely there is some type of genocide going on if the government is allowing these murders to be carried out. To sit by and let people be massacred and cooperate with the people that do the murdering seems to equate to genocide. However, how would the warrant be carried out? Al-Bashir obviously has the support of a large portion of his country.

This seems to be similar to the situation in Zimbabwe. While we can see the issues that come from Mugabe stealing the presidency, there is little we can do about it. Regardless as to how he obtained it, he does have the presidency. He also has the support of a portion of the people that live in the country. How can you get him out of office?

Al-Bashir is the president of Sudan and issuing this warrant is not going to do anything but upset his supporters. That means that more people could die and many of them may be humanitarian workers. While I think that the genocide charges are valid, it does no good to make them. Now the residents of Darfur will be in danger of losing the humanitarian aide they so desperately need. It is important to think before issues such a warrant. What good can it do at this time?

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