For seven years now, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has literally gotten away with murder as he travels the globe rubbing shoulders with world leaders and snubbing his nose at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In 2009, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese leader for crimes against humanity, including the killing of 300,000 people and the displacement of 2.5 million more in Darfur. A year later, the court added the charge of genocide. Since then, Bashir has made more than 75 trips to nearly 30 countries, including to seven states that are members of the ICC and are therefore legally obligated to arrest him.
Later this month, Bashir is expected to travel to the Rwandan capital of Kigali to attend an African Union summit on human rights. Rwandan President Paul Kagame has said he will welcome the Sudanese leader with open arms, which is hypocritical at best. In 1994, Kagame led a military offensive in Rwanda that stopped the genocidal slaughter of hundreds of thousands. Since then, he has gone on to try thousands of perpetrators and to pass strict laws against genocide deniers.
Bashir enjoys such brazen impunity for a few reasons. He and a few other African heads of state argue that the ICC is pro-Western and anti-African. Kagame has himself labeled the court “a new form of colonialism, slavery and imperialism,” and Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni declared last May that the “ICC is none of our business” even though it was very much his business 12 years earlier when he referred the first case to the ICC. “I supported the ICC once,” Museveni said with Bashir at his side, “but now they are just a bunch of useless people.”
Until this January, all the ICC’s formal investigations have focused on atrocities committed in Africa, so it is easy to see why the rhetoric of powerful African leaders has gained traction in the press. But it is also important to listen to the voices of African survivors of mass violence, who tell a