The Waiting is Over – Apart from the next 8 days that is…

February 23, 2009

Proving once again that mindless press speculation can serve a purpose, the International Criminal Court has been forced to put out a notice saying that it will issue a warrant for the arrest of annouce its decision on President Omar al-Bashir next Wednesday. It rather snootily notes…

CONSIDERING that there have been numerous rumors over the past weeks on a

possible date and outcome of the decision that this Chamber shall issue on the

Prosecution Application; that the Chamber is deeply concerned about such rumors;

and that it will publicly issue the said decision on the date set out in the present

decision

It means diplomats, aid workers and journalists here can resume normal service rather than endlessly postponing holidays or trips to the field while wondering when the ICC will indict its first head of state. Since about December it has been the first thing mentioned at any gathering of expats in Khartoum. And it means that diplomats will finally have to work out what they are going to do about shaking hands with a man accused of war crimes and murder.

Generally the government will be keen to keep up an appearance of business as usual in order to make the ICC appear an irrelevance. Diplomats are also keen to minimise how indictments affect the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in the south and stuttering attempts to bring calm to Darfur. No-one wants humanitarian operations to be jeopardised by strong words from either side.

I suspect all sides will be keen to avoid confrontation as they work out what it all means. But that just leaves a sticky issue of appearing in public alongside one of the most wanted men in Africa. Should you call in sick when invited to government functions? Try to make a citizen’s arrest? Or just avoid being photographed?

If I was Bashir I would be sorely tempted to invite Khartoum’s diplomatic corps to the official opening of the Merowe Dam or some such on the afternoon of March 4, and then step back as pandemonium ensued.



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