With Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai away on a three-week trip intended to drum up international aid to the fledgling transitional government, his rival-turned-co-leader, President Robert Mugabe, is cavorting with one of the region’s most unsavory leaders: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. As Tsvangirai tries to make the case to would-be donor countries that Zimbabwe is moving in the right direction under the power-sharing government, the visit by alleged war criminal Bashir certainly doesn’t help his case.
Scott Baldauf of The Christian Science Monitor covered Bashir’s trip in a good piece this week. Baldauf quoted Enough’s John Prendergast, who put the visit in context:
[Mugabe] loves thumbing his nose at the international community; he is so good at it. Mugabe couldn’t care less about Bashir. He uses him to make a point that Western institutions are irrelevant in his Africa.
Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes in Darfur, was in Zimbabwe to attend the regional summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) this week. Critics of the ICC billed the summit as the perfect opportunity for ICC member states to renounce the court. But as the summit closed yesterday, African members of the ICC rejected calls by Libya, Senegal, Comoros, and Djibouti for a full-scale withdrawal. A meeting to determine a response to the ICC’s warrant is slated for August in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and attendance is not limited to the 30 African signatories to the Rome Statute. As I mentioned last week, some powerful op-eds have already started gearing up for this expected assault on the ICC.
According to statements made at the close of the COMESA summit today, the ICC member states are expected to call for a deferral of the arrest warrant. "They will reach a consensus and ask for the warrant against al-Bashir to be deferred for some time," a diplomat told Reuters AlertNet. "But an en masse withdrawal will not happen.”
Given the broad spectrum of possibilities, this seems to be a much less problematic outcome than alternatives. Unfortunately, it still leaves the impression that the “African response” to the international court is decidedly negative, but, as Colin Thomas-Jensen pointed out a few weeks ago, this is hardly the case. Unfortunately, the voices of those who support the work of the ICC –and those who speak on behalf of the victims the ICC defends – are lost amid the din of the court’s more colorful detractors, many of whom are likely guarding their own backs.