“Must read” is inadequate for a post like Worldman’s latest

07 Mar

Worldman is Swiss. He is the same age as I am, but has had such a different life. His journey has taken him to many places, as his name implies. Professionally it has taken him to Darfur, where until very recently he had worked for the United Nations World Food Programme – for four years.  Here is someone who really knows what he is talking about.

Today he has posted something that should give us all pause to consider the unintended consequences of things, to question what to an outsider may seem right. I urge you all to pay careful attention.

I had an argument (and an outcry)

Last November, just before I was ending my 4 years mission in Darfur, I was sitting in a café in Khartoum, with a colleague. It was always a pleasure to be with her and to discuss about a milion things. At that time, several month had passed since Luis Moreno-Ocampo had filed his suit against President Omar Al-Bashir at ICC, the International Criminal Court.

I had a terrible argument with my colleague. On the ICC issue. She was a very strong defender of bringing the Sudanese President to court. And I was strongly opposed. She argued that people who do or did something wrong should be brought to justice. In particular when it involves war crimes and crimes against humanity. I said that of course I agree with this but that one has to look at the way how it is done. I told her that issuing an arrest warrant will not do anything. She answered that it would by all means send a signal. And I replied that it will make a big mess.

And now we have a big mess. ICC issued the warrant. It is obvious that the Sudanese authorities will never accept this. The international community is divided on this issue anyway. The Arab Ligue, the African Union and the Chinese Government are requesting for the execution of this warrant to be postponed. ICC could have made a statement that, in principle, there is a case but that the proceedings will be postponed by 12 month. They could have invoked article 16 of the court law to do so.

To give a chance for peace in Darfur to come. Of course, this chance is slim. But one has to give the benefit of the doubt. A few weeks ago, the JEM rebels and the Sudan Government have signed a first document in Doha. It just could be the beginning of something good to happen. But, of course, doubts are permitted. After all, the Darfur Peace Agreement signed in May 2006 (by only one rebel party) and hailed by the international community as a "major breakthrough for peace in Darfur", did not bring any peace. How can it, when the agreement is not signed by all parties concerned.

So, still no peace in Darfur, a "goof up" by an international institution (supported by Western nations), an angry government and its reaction. Kicking out international NGO. 10 of them, maybe more to come. I know all of them. In my last 10 years as a humanitarian aid worker I got to know them, in many different ways. Their not "being around" anymore will certainly not get the Sudanese President arrested. But the suffering of the people of Darfur will certainly become more terrible….

That is a generous quote, but there is much more to read there. Learn exactly what agencies and NGOs have been working there, and what they did. Read some linked material there from others who know what they are talking about.

…Can the international community be satisfied with this?

I am worried. For the people in Darfur. For all the devoted people, international and national, working with these NGO’s. And, last but not least, for all my colleagues and friends I left behind of this wonderful, amazing organisation:

The United Nations World Food Programme. I know they are not sleeping right now. They are working very hard to find ways to continue to bring assistance to the people in need.

As I said — a must read post if ever there was one.

Thank you, Worldman, for having a blog and letting us know.


Posted by on March 7, 2009 in Africa, current affairs


3 responses to ““Must read” is inadequate for a post like Worldman’s latest

  1. Legal Eagle

    March 8, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Thanks, Neil, for tipping me off about that one. Just because a particular legal action can be taken doesn’t mean that it has to be taken…you have to think about whether anything productive will be achieved as a result. Sounds to me like this was a useless arrest warrant – nothing to be achieved – but great suffering to the Sudanese as a result.

  2. Peter (Worldman)

    March 8, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Hello Neil, thanks a lot for your “ad”. I know that some of my readers (and also some of my friends) do or will not agree with what I say about the ICC. Of course, action has to be taken against ill-doers. But it is a matter of balancing things. In South Darfur only (where I worked) food assistance is given to around 1 million people, every month. This represents around 17’000 tons of food per month. Which is distributed by NGOs, partners of WFP. With them not being around, it will be more difficult to continue with this assistance. But then, WFP is really a fantastic organisation and they will go out of their way to find solutions to this.

  3. Neil

    March 8, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Thanks, Peter. I think your point of view needed to be put. It really is about what the effects are, not about how righteous it makes some of us feel. You make that point very well.

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