NYALA, SUDAN – In Sudan’s sprawling Camp Kalma, people who fled the Darfur conflict are overjoyed at a pledge by the country’s new authorities to finally deliver ex-President Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court.
Bashir, who was deposed in April 2019 following mass protests, has for the past decade flouted ICC arrest warrants on charges of genocide and war crimes in the ravaged Darfur region of western Sudan.
Sudan’s transitional authorities agreed last Tuesday to transfer him to stand trial before the court based in The Hague.
“There was rejoicing across the camp after people heard al-Bashir is being handed over to the ICC,” 65-year-old Adam Ali, a longtime resident of Kalma camp in Nyala, capital of South Darfur state, told AFP.
Darfuris and rebel groups have repeatedly demanded al-Bashir be handed over to the ICC over alleged war crimes in a conflict which according to the United Nations left 300,000 people dead and displaced 2.5 million others.
Local community leader Yaqoob Mohamed said the decision was “a victory for the victims” and would go a long way toward “rebuilding trust” with the leadership in Khartoum.
Hundreds of thousands of those displaced by the conflict that broke out in 2003 in Darfur, a vast region made up of five states, still live in camps and remain dependent on aid provided by the UN and other international organizations.
The conflict erupted when African minority rebels rose up against al-Bashir’s Arab-dominated government in Khartoum, which they accused of marginalizing the region.
To crush the rebellion, Bashir’s government unleashed an armed militia of mostly Arab nomads known as the Janjaweed, who have been accused by rights groups of “ethnic cleansing” campaigns and widespread rape.
Thousands of the militiamen were later incorporated into Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by commander and current political power-broker, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who is known as Hemeti.
The decision to surrender al-Bashir to the ICC came after protracted talks between rebel groups, including from Darfur, and Sudan’s ruling body, which took power after al-Bashir’s ouster and arrest.
Three of his aides, including former defense and interior ministers, are also to be handed over to the court, although a time frame has not yet been announced.
“If Bashir and his aides are not handed to the ICC, peace will never find its way to Darfur,” said Hassan Issac, another Darfuri living in Kalma.
Hassan Isaac Mohamed, a 72-year-old Darfuri, said he felt “relief” in the wake of a war that had decimated his family, killing his father and two brothers.
Government spokesman Faisal Mohamed told reporters on Wednesday that “details of how Bashir and others will be presented in front of the ICC will be discussed with the ICC and armed groups.
Rights groups such as Amnesty International are pressing for a swift handover of the toppled strongman.
Since its creation in August, Sudan’s transitional government has been pushing to forge a peace settlement with rebel groups and to end conflicts across the country.
It has promised accountability and kept al-Bashir in Khartoum’s Kober prison on a string of charges including corruption.
In December, the veteran leader was sentenced to two years in a community reform center over accusations of illegally acquiring and using foreign funds.
He was removed from power after street protests against his rule broke out in December 2018 triggering unrest that left dozens dead, hundreds wounded and thousands jailed.
“We were relieved when Bashir fell but now we feel like we can finally start to recover from the impact of war,” said camp resident Jamal Muhammed.