By Alexis Herr
A rebel group ambushed UN Peacekeepers in Darfur on 13 July, killing seven Tanzanian soldiers and wounding another seventeen. It is the bloodiest aggression against peacekeepers in Sudan’s history. The joint United Nations and African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has denounced the assault and the AU issued a press release, which summarized comments made by Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the African Union (AU) Chairperson. The briefing concluded:
The Chairperson further reaffirms that despite this attack, UNAMID will not be deterred in protecting civilians in Darfur, whilst efforts continue to be made towards implementing a peaceful and lasting solution to the crisis.
The same day the AU Chairperson condemned violence in Darfur and issued a promise to protect civilians, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir landed in Abuja, Nigeria to attend an AU summit. The UN International Criminal Court (ICC) has accused Bashir of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Because Nigeria is a signatory of the Rome Statute that created the ICC, Nigeria is technically required to arrest Bashir. Nigeria signed the Rome Statue on 1 June 2000 and ratified it a year later on 27 September 2001. Nigeria’s president, however, never signed the bill into law. And the country’s failure to take Bashir into custody is the result of an AU policy (3 July 2009) to not cooperate with the ICC call for the indictment of Bashir. Instead, Nigeria hosted the Sudanese president until 16 July when mounting protests prompted his departure.
Nigerian activists protested the Sudanese president’s visit and in so doing demonstrated that not all Nigerians support their government’s inattention to Bashir’s crimes. The Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court filed a suit in Nigeria’s Federal High Court demanding Bashir’s arrest. Similarly, the Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project requested Fatou Bensouda, the ICC chief prosecutor, to recommend that the United Nations Security Council hold Nigeria accountable for failing to incarcerate Bashir.
It is encouraging that Nigerian activists are working to hold Bashir accountable for his crimes and pressure their government to uphold the ICC mandate. The concerted efforts of both The Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court and Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project earned Bashir’s visit added international press and spread the word that Nigeria allowed a known criminal to visit without taking further action. In an age of global media there is no excuse for such outrageous acts to go on unseen. Thanks to the hard work of Nigerian activists, the world took notice.