Sudan has been through a revolution, but it’s unclear what former President Bashir’s extradition to the ICC indicates for the future of the country. Has Sudan been seduced by Western power and capital?


Story Transcript

MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News. I’m Marc Steiner. Good to have you with us.

We’re about to delve deeper into the developing situation in the Sudan, as we continue our conversations with Dr. Khalid Ahmed. Sudan has experienced over the last decades genocide, dictatorships, civil war, famine. But what we’ve seen in just over a year since the massive demonstrations forced the downfall of Omar Bashir’s dictatorship is really nothing short of a revolution, though a very complex one. The Civilian Council, which was sworn in last August, wasted no time in putting former president Omar Bashir on trial.

First, he was charged with receiving a bribe from Saudi Arabia, which he eventually admitted to. But on Tuesday, the Civilian Council announced that it will allow Bashir to be tried by the International Criminal Court, the ICC, for war crimes and crimes against humanity because of his role in the genocide in Darfur, which killed 300,000 people or more in 2003. Now, Omar Bashir’s lawyer Mohammed al-Hassan tried to claim that the extradition decision is not yet final. Let’s listen to this.

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MOHAMMED AL-HASSAN: We do not consider that this decision is complete because it must first pass through all institutions, including the armed forces. The president has been the supreme leader of the armed forces all these years and he represents them and has fought with them. All the groups which were recently formed oppose his rule, and now these groups want to see him on trial. If there were crimes, then any trial must go forth to Sudanese courts where justice will be served reasonably.

MARC STEINER: We’ll talk about that, and Netanyahu’s visit to Sudan, and how Sudan is in some ways trying to get back into the graces of the Western World as we start a conversation with Dr. Khalid Ahmed. Welcome. Good to have you back with us.

KHALID AHMED: Thank you for having me.

MARC STEINER: Dr. Ahmed, I should tell you, is a political science professor in African Studies at the University of Toronto, and he worked with the United Nations in Sudan in 2007. We’ve been talking about this for a while, and we’re going to do it again today. It is really interesting. I was looking at the last conversation you had here with The Real News when you were talking to my colleague Greg Wilpert. And you said at the end, the Military Council which took over in 2019 didn’t want to extradite Bashir to the ICC because he would name names and implicate a lot of his own generals.

But what has changed, if anything? Will there be an extradition, do you think? I mean, that can be very dicey. Maybe he’ll be tried inside of Sudan itself by the ICC. But how do you think this is going to play out politically. And what about those political battles within about Bashir being a tried by the ICC?

KHALID AHMED: You’re right, Marc. The generals who took over the Transitional Military Sovereign Council have stated several times that they are not going to hand over Bashir to the International Criminal Court.

However, I think recently we’ve realized that there are many backdoor deals that are been going on, and I think the government, the current traditional government’s hand has been twisted, so to speak, in order for them to receive financial assistance and for the name of Sudan to be lifted from the terrorist list, the US terrorist list where Sudan has been there since late ’99. It seems that they are, they have to fulfill a specific number of conditions, and one of them is the handover of Bashir to the Hague, to the ICC.

MARC STEINER: I mean, so you think that will happen?

KHALID AHMED: Well, it has to happen for several reasons. One of them is that, as I mentioned that Sudan is in a dire need to regain its placing within the international community, and the international community has refused to accept that before certain conditions are met. The current government cannot continue running the Sudan the way it’s going on right now because of the financial crises that are taking place at the moment. There are shortages of everything from bread to gas to basic needs or the hospitals or medications.

Sudan is in dire need of financial assistance. And some of the conditions that have been applied to Sudan in order to remove it from the terrorist list, is for them to really prove… Three conditions have been actually proposed: that they prove that they have no longer interest in a terrorist acts; number two, to provide evidence that they are no longer associating themselves with any terrorist organizations; and three, to pay for the USS Cole victims who Sudan was accused of. And this current government has agreed to all these conditions.

MARC STEINER: I mean, let’s explore this a bit more deeply for a moment. I mean, Netanyahu just paid a visit to the government in Sudan to negotiate. Clearly, some people are saying he is playing a role to get them off the list, and he talked very highly what was going on in Sudan. You mentioned the $30 million that are paying to the families of the USS Cole that was blown up in 2000 off the coast of Yemen, and they have agreed to that. Now the whole thing with Bashir maybe being sent to the ICC, to the Hague, and it looks like that might happen; let’s talk about the political dynamic here.

I mean, there’s two things going on, but let me talk about one first and get to what’s happening maybe inside the Sudan itself. It seems there’s a major push by the military and the Civilian Council to come into the West’s favor and with Israel being in the mix, and Israel also means that the Sudan will no longer be against Israel and Saudi Arabia will no longer be against Israel. All that’s taking place. There’s a shift going on here politically, with the west in Northeast African. Talk a bit about that. How does that play into all of this?

KHALID AHMED: Marc, that’s a very good question and a very important one. I’ll tell you. Africa in general, and Sudan specifically, has been plagued by foreign intervention and Western intervention in particular with regard to their sovereignty and their decision- making. I think the issue right now for the West and Western countries in general is to, who should lead Sudan in the future and who should really be in charge, and how to make sure that Sudan is run by someone who is closely aligned to Western ideals and Western interests. In order to do that, it seems that they’re positioning Burhan at the moment to do that. The head of the military, the Sovereign Council in Sudan.

By the way, Burhan himself has been, was wanted by the International Criminal Court and his Vice President Hemeti, the both of them are wanted for the atrocities in Darfur. But they seem to be getting impunity for some reason. I think in exchange they’re handing over Bashir to tho the ICC, and they’re getting away with the murders that they’ve committed in Darfur. But let me go back to the point of sovereignty, and how Africa really lacks the ability, and Sudan in particular lacks the ability to really make its own decisions. Western countries have historically been intervening in Africa and Sudan ever since colonialism ended.

Therefore, now in Sudan we see pressure put on this government to behave in a certain way, and to accept specific policies with regard to its relationship to Israel and with regard to paying the USS Cole, $30 million the US Cole victims, and also to send Bashir to the International Criminal Court. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Bashir is a criminal who deserves to be tried, and he deserves to be convicted of all the atrocities that was committed in the past 30 years. There is no doubt about it. But it seems that the deal has been done in a way that would get more than just Bashir going to the ICC. It seems like what’s happening right now, is that the Western countries are making sure that certain people remain in power in Sudan, and the transition period goes in a specific direction that is favorable to Western interests.

MARC STEINER: Let’s take the two final points here. And picking up on that before we go back to the ICC; we’ll close with that. What do you think would be the dynamic coming up between other Civilian Council and the military government? Which was, most of the people that you just pointed out were part of the inner circle or they wouldn’t be in the positions they’re in. People that have been fighting the push for a real democratic election and a change towards democracy in Khartoum. How do you think that’s going to play out over this? I mean, this could just erupt either way. People could take to the streets again. The military could take over another coup. A lot could change in the next couple of months.

KHALID AHMED: Absolutely. I anticipate a lot of struggle between the military and the civilian partners in the transitional government. I’ll tell you why. The Military Council itself shouldn’t be really part of the government. This was not the mandate of the people who went out on the streets and demonstrated against the military rule of Al-Bashir.

But external powers–again, going back to the point that I keep referring to–have insisted that the Burhan and Hemeti remain in power. And that particular has happened because of the blessing of the US, and with encouragement from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. They are there to serve a specific purpose; namely, to keep the soldiers of Sudan in Yemen fighting alongside the Saudi government and the UAE government. Also to make sure that his soldiers now, as the news keeps coming, are fighting in Libya alongside General Haftar.

MARC STEINER: Right.

KHALID AHMED: They want to make sure that they have them in power, Hemeti and Burhan because they know who, that they will actually obey to their commands and they will answer their questions. However, on the other hand you’ll find the forces of freedom and change are the ones who are backing the Prime Minister of Hamdok. They are inexperienced in politics. They have the aspirations of the Sudanese people, but there seems to be some cracks appearing in their relationship with Burhan and Hemeti, in particular with what to do with regard to the issue of the financial situation.

Burhan seems to be leaning more towards having the relationship with Israel restored and having Israel in return, mediate with the US, and guts the Sudan off the blacklist of the terrorist list. Hamdok, the Prime Minister seems to be interested, and I don’t know if you’ve heard of that or not, but he actually sent a request to the United Nations, asking for Chapter Seven [Note: Sudan’s prime minister is requesting Chapter Six of the UN Charter, not Chapter Seven.]

MARC STEINER: What does that mean, Chapter Seven?

KHALID AHMED: He’s asking for a full UN intervention in Sudan. He’s asking for the Sudanese, for the United Nations to intervene into helping Sudan rebuild its institutions. By that, he receives funding and he will receive support from the UN in all the aspects that Sudan are going through right now. He will also have training for the officers and for the military.

He’s kind of state-building on a state-building deal here. Most Sudanese are also suspicious about that. But he believes that this is the only way to receive the funding that are necessary to rebuild the country. He has no money–not even $150 million, according to him–in the Bank of Sudan. He has no hard currency to export anything at the moment that people need on the ground. So, they are torn between Hamdok’s vision of leaning more towards the United Nations and Burhan’s vision of seeking more alliances with the US and getting Sudan’s name lifted off their terrorist watch.

MARC STEINER: We can’t do it today, but I think when we conclude here, which what you’re saying is that it’s a really… We need to probe what’s happening with the Western powers: the United States, Israel, some of the Arab countries moving into Africa, especially in East Africa at this moment, to flex its muscle in terms of its influence. This is a real shift in international politics going on, and it’s being played out in the heart of Sudan.

KHALID AHMED: Actually, the Western powers have been historically very much involved in the Horn of Africa, Eastern Africa. This is not really new to Africa. Sudan and other neighboring countries have been plagued by Western intervention-

MARC STEINER: What I mean is, it cleaves this sphere of the West?

KHALID AHMED: Absolutely. Absolutely. By the way, there are a lot … I mean, I personally think that Bashir should be sent to the ICC. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m in favor of ICC or I think favorably of the ICC. The ICC is no more than an extension of Western hegemony over African countries. I agree with those who criticize this and those who have already withdrawn from it, such as Burundi and other countries in Africa and who criticized it for being built specifically for political reasons towards Africa.

MARC STEINER: The only people they’ve tried are people from the continent.

KHALID AHMED: Look Marc, since its inception, it had 26 trials. All of them were Africans.

MARC STEINER: Exactly.

KHALID AHMED: No one from outside of Africa have been indicted or incriminated by the court. Many people are starting to wonder, is this a new form of new colonialism or why is it only focusing on Africa? By the way, Trump himself in 2018 said that as far as, and I quote, “As far as the United States is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no authority and no place.” The United States itself is very worried about the ICC and incriminating his soldiers from wars committed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s very understanding that Africans themselves feel like there’s something fishy out about the ICC. But I hope to see the African Union actually develop and improve the African Court of Justice and Humans and People’s Rights, which is supposed to at some point in the future, has being happening, developing slowly, but it needs to be set up quickly so it can deal with these issues within Africa, by African people and set precedents in Africa for other presidents who might think in the future of doing anything wrong, that they will be tried and tried fairly by the African Union.

MARC STEINER: Well, Dr. Khalid Ahmed, thank you so much once again for joining us here on The Real News. Interesting conversation. We’ll keep this up with you and see how all this unfolds. Thank you so much.

KHALID AHMED: Thank you, Marc, for having me. I appreciate it.

MARC STEINER: It’s been my pleasure. I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. Thank you all for joining us. Take care.


Marc Steiner

Marc Steiner, interim co-Editor at TRNN, is a Peabody Award-winning journalist who has spent his life working on issues of social justice. He walked his first picket line at age 13 and at age 16 became the youngest person in Maryland arrested for Civil Rights protests, in the Freedom Rides through Cambridge. As part of the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968, Marc helped organize poor white communities with the Young Patriots, the white Appalachian counterpart to the Black Panthers. Early in his career he counseled at-risk youth in therapeutic settings and founded a theater program in the Maryland State prison system. He also taught Theatre for 10 years at the Baltimore School for the Arts. From 1993 through 1997 his signature “Marc Steiner Show” aired on Baltimore’s public radio airwaves, both WYPR – which Marc co-founded – and Morgan State University’s WEAA.