"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


the icc gets its groove back

Outside of Khartoum, it's not particularly controversial to say that Sudanese President Omar Bashir is responsible for some horrible human rights abuses. In that sense, it's not surprising that the International Criminal Court finally issued a warrant for Bashir's arrest on Wednesday. Bad guy = consequences in the new world of international criminal prosecutions. At least in theory.

Arresting a sitting head of state for those abuses is another matter entirely, particularly in Africa, where leaders tend to support one anothers' rule regardless of domestic politics. (Can anyone say "Robert Mugabe"?) Africa's leaders were able to get away with murder (quite literally, in many cases) because of this norm, and many ruthless dictators of the Cold War era lived out their days and died with complete impunity. A lot of this ended with the end of the Cold War, but Africa's heads of state have continued to be more than willing to overlook the abusive antics of their peers.

There are plenty of reasons to believe that the issuance of the warrant for Bashir's arrest won't improve anything (How likely is it that anyone will actually arrest him?) and that it could actually make things worse for an international community that's trying to negotiate a peaceful settlement/the end of slaughtering innocent people in Darfur.

I am really glad to see that the norms of not just of unchallenged bad governance, but also
of unchallenged rule, seems to be ending at long last. And it's a sign that the ICC, of which I have been a skeptic (to put it mildly), might really be serious about prosecuting the world's worst people. This decision will have far-reaching repercussions throughout the continent. In the long term, that's a good thing.


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