NAS Press Release: ON THE PLANNED VISIT OF AL-BASHIR OF SUDAN TO NIGERIA
Having been actively involved in the international campaign to end the orgy of violence in Darfur, NAS is indeed worried that the Nigerian government which is a signatory to the ICC treaty, has issued an invitation to Sudanese President to visit Nigeria for an African Union Peace and Security Council meeting in Abuja, on Thursday, 29 October 2009, despite the fact that he is wanted by the ICC for grave atrocities against humanity.
It will be recalled that the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, had on 4th March, 2009 issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on account of his complicity in the agonizing conflict in Darfur.The charges against al-Bashir are grave and must not be treated with levity, particularly as he has been accused of being one of the chief culprits of the pogrom against the three main ethnic groups - the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa.
The crux of the conflict is the age long dispute over land between nomadic Arabs pastoralists and settled non-Arab agriculturists. Due to drought, the Arabs in the parched Northern part of Darfur region decided to move to the South inhabited by the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes and this led to fierce bloody confrontations . Rather than play the role of statesman that the presidency of the country has accorded him and promote equity, peace and justice, al-Bashir, unashamedly, chose the path of perfidy and dishonour – he openly supported the Arab pastoralists and supplied them weapons and replenished their armoury repeatedly, to the consternation of the global community.
Al- Bashir-led regime also launched a savage ethnic cleansing offensive aimed at dispossessing the indigenous Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes of their land and supplanted them with Arabs.
Under his watch as President and Commander- in-Chief, the country’s air force bombed villages while the army launched ferocious and barbaric ground assault on innocent civilians, including teenage girls, women and children. A government backed vicious Arab militia called the Janjaweed was allowed to kill, rape women, and burn down villages with impunity.
It is estimated that the ethnic cleansing in Darfur has claimed well over 400,000 lives and al-Bashir has been indicted for personally directing some of these gruesome attacks, and charged with committing genocide, amongst other offences. UN has since declared the Darfur situation as the worst humanitarian crises of our time.
The UN Resolution 1706 approved 20,600 troops to support the ill-equipped 7,000-troop African peacekeeping force in Sudan. In order to cover their tracks, al-Bashir and his murderous regime vehemently opposed the resolution which of course provided a pretext for killing foreign soldiers, among them Nigerians, with impunity by that country’s militias.
NAS believes in the sanctity of human life. We also oppose any form of institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other.
NAS does acknowledge that President Umaru Yar’Adua has made the rule of law the fulcrum of his administration. To us, this implies that as the Head of State, he will abide by, not only the Nigerian constitution, but all other international treaties for which the country is a signatory.
It is on this account that we implore the Nigerian government to abide by the spirit and letter of the Article 86 of the Rome Statute of the ICC that requires states like Nigeria to “cooperate fully with the Court in its investigation and prosecution of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.”
Nigeria has made enormous contribution (both human and material) toward ending the conflict in Darfur. She has continued to contribute peace keeping troops there, some of whom, unfortunately, have been gruesomely murdered by forces that do not want the conflict to end.
The victims of the Darfur atrocity certainly appreciate Nigeria’s effort thus far, but their lot would be better still if Nigeria abides by the ICC treaty, by arresting and surrendering al-Bashir for prosecution for the lives wasted in this avoidable conflict.
NAS wishes to remind Nigeria that Article 87 (7) of the Rome Statute provides: “Where a State Party fails to comply with a request to cooperate by the Court contrary to the provisions of this Statute, thereby preventing the Court from exercising its functions and powers under this Statute, the Court may make a finding to that effect and…, where the Security Council referred the matter to the Court, to the Security Council.”
It is important to remind President Yar’Adua that Nigeria owes the comity of nations some responsibility as a (non-permanent) member of the UN Security Council. It is also pertinent to remember that Nigeria is the current Chairman of the Economic Community of West African states (ECOWAS), a body that recently supported the ICC position on Guinea. Nigeria MUST not afford to allow Mr. al-Bashir to escape justice.
We must not be seen to be conferring legitimacy or credibility to a “mass murderer” who has systematically carried out a pogrom of his own people, by our action, and this invitation appears to lend credence to that fact.
Nigeria must at this critical time complement the effort of all lovers of peace, justice and equity by arresting al-Bashir. The rest of the world is watching.
October 27, 2009