In 2009 the international criminal court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir on seven counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. In 2010 it issued a further warrant on three counts of genocide. He is the only sitting head of state charged with committing genocide against his own people. In a majority Arab country, the ethnically African groups, especially those around the Darfur area, have long been politically marginalised. But since 2003 Bashir has been trying to systematically eliminate them, not least through his proxies, the hated Janjaweed (literally “devils on horseback”) militia, notorious for their cruelty. To take one example out of many: in February 2004, the Janjaweed attacked a boarding school in Darfur, forcing 110 girls to strip at gunpoint before raping many of them and burning down their school. Little wonder tens of thousands have been fleeing for their lives.
And it gets worse. Last month, Amnesty International released a report with evidence that, earlier this year, Bashir’s air force had been dropping chemical weapons on some of the remoter villages. It is hard to get the soil samples that would fully evidence such a claim – foreigners, even UN-African Union peacekeepers – are not allowed in the region. But the horrific photographs of children with blistered skin and bleeding eyes look very much like the effects of some version of mustard gas. No, it’s not a competition, but as the world is rightly concerned with the plight of the people of Aleppo, there are others – in perhaps more out of the way places – who get far less of our attention.
But why has the UK government given no official statement on the evidence of chemical weapons use? Could it be that it wants to play down the significance of these attacks because the Bashir regime has now become an EU partner in the management of African immigration to Europe?
Last November, at a meeting in Malta, the EU came up with the Khartoum process. Desperate to respond to the migration “crisis”, it signed an agreement for “enhanced cooperation on migration and mobility”, giving Sudan €100m over three years, with another €46m specifically allocated for border control, training border police and establishing holding centres. And it’s often the Janjaweed that do the job of policing borders.
Outrageous doesn’t begin to cover it. Sudanese government officials are inLondon again this week for more “strategic dialogue” on migration cooperation. It seems that, because European electorates are getting increasingly anxious about immigration, we are now prepared to make a deal with the devil, funding to the tune of many millions a man who would be arrested for genocide were he to step foot on our shores. And why? Because Bashir has promised to help the EU stop people fleeing to Europe at source. The fact that they are fleeing his death squads and chemical weapons attacks isn’t being mentioned. We play down the genocide against his own people because he is now a valued “partner” on immigration and at the centre of one of the established migration routes from the Horn of Africa.
Not everyone is fleeing from Bashir’s bombs. In South Sudan, for instance, a civil war has left tens of thousands on the very edge of starvation, living off goat bones and water lilies. In the capital, Juba, traders are now cutting their tomatoes in half because people can’t afford to buy a whole one. To dismiss those who flee such horrors as mere “economic migrants”, as if all they want is some gilded consumer lifestyle of TVs and PlayStations, is wilfully blind and manifestly cruel.
And, by the way, let’s not blame any of this on Brexit. The shoddy Khartoum deal was an EU deal. And it took place over six months before we voted on EU membership. Der Spiegel reported that the 28 EU states had agreed to secrecy about the deal. “Under no circumstances” should the public find out what was going on, the EU commission warned. Maybe that’s why we are not hearing so much about Bashir dropping chemical weapons on his own people. Freaked by immigration, the EU is now prepared to do business with murderers.
Source: The Guardian.