- South Kordofan’s Governor Ahmed Haroun (Reuters)
Position: Governor of South Kordofan State, Sudan
Political Party: NCP
Born: 1964, North Kordofan State, Sudan
Ahmed Haroun – now famous as the man wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his conduct of the counter insurgency in Darfur in between 2003 and 2004 – was born ‘to a poor father’ in Northern Kordofan in 1964. He is descended from members of the Bargo ethnic group who migrated from Nigeria to Sudan in the 19th Century.
He joined the Islamic Movement at Khor Tegat Secondary School in al-Ubayyid, at a time when its leaders were expanding the movement into a mass organization. One means by which the executive bureau achieved this expansion was the so-called ‘Western Strategy’, whereby Sudan’s Islamists indoctrinated the large numbers of western Sudanese who after having migrated to the major towns lost touch with their rural backgrounds, whilst simultaneously becoming so alienated by urban lifestyles that they were open to Islamic Movement’s religious outlook. Haroun appears to have been one such individual.
After graduating from the Law School of Egypt’s Alexandria University – where he was briefly president of the Union of Sudanese Students – in 1987, he returned to Sudan to work as a judge in al-Ubayyid, before the National Islamic Front’s participation in Omar al-Bashir’s coup of 1989 brought him closer to the centre of power.
- Governor of South Kordofan Ahmed Haroun (Reueters)
After the coup, Haroun was prominently involved in the establishment of NIF-sponsored security organs parallel to the regular army and police. In 1992, he became the ‘co-ordinator general’ of the Popular Police, which was established to enforce the NIF’s strict interpretation of Islamic morality. After the split between Hasan al-Turabi and Umar al-Bashir in 1999, Haroun sided with al-Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP). This was in spite of his close relationship with al-Turabi’s chief aide Ibrahim Sanussi, a man with whom he had lived in the same quarter in al-Ubayyid and whose favour was believed by some to have been responsible for his swift rise through the ranks of the Islamic Movement.
However, it was in his role as the holder of the Darfur security dossier at the Interior Ministry in 2003 that he attracted most notoriety. In between 2003 and 2004 Haroun is believed to have organized and mobilized the ’Janjaweed’ militias that have been held responsible for numerous war crimes since the outbreak of conflict in the region. It was on account of his actions during this period that in April 2007 the ICC prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo decided to issue an arrest warrant for Haroun, accusing him of overseeing the numerous acts of rape, murder, plunder and destruction committed by pro-government militias in the region. The warrant observed that Haroun had contributed personally to the perpetration of these abuses by exhorting the militias to commit these acts in public speeches.
The Sudanese government’s initial response to Haroun’s indictment showed its contempt for the ICC. Having already been appointed State Minister in the Humanitarian Affairs ministry in 2005, in September 2007 – six months after the indictment – he was made head of a committee charged with investigating human rights violations in Darfur. Although Haroun is not a member of the ‘inner circle’ and it is believed that some in the NCP consider him a liability, it seems that the party does not want to risk surrendering Haroun for fear of marginalizing its supporters in western Sudan. Interviewed by The Guardian in 2008, Haroun condemned the ICC for neo-colonialism and ‘only targeting African countries’.
Referring to his deployment of armed militias in Darfur, he claimed ‘The policy and tactics of the government, and other governments when things like this are happening, is to begin mobilizing. We have a security reserve force – the Popular Defence Force – to respond to those attacks, a paramilitary force. Some call the PDF by different names, some call it militia, some are calling it Janjaweed. But it is a formal force and it works under the army.’ He blamed the rebels for all the massacres that had been committed and concluded ‘What I have done was legal, it was my responsibility, it was my duty. I am content. I am at peace with myself’.
South Kordofan Governorship
In 2009 Umar al-Bashir appointed Haroun as governor of South Kordofan, a position which he retained after beating the SPLM’s Abdel-Aziz Al-Hilu in the gubernatorial elections of May 2011. It was the controversy over these elections – in which the SPLM rejected the outcome and accused Haroun and the NCP of rigging the result – that helped to provoke the re-emergence of conflict in the region later in 2011. In this period he has been accused of further war crimes.
In early 2012, al-Jazeera broadcast a video of Haroun ordering government troops to take no prisoners when fighting the SPLM-North, declaring ‘don’t bring them back alive. We have no space for them’. Haroun later accused the Qatar-based channel of fabricating the video.
To watch video, please click here.
Haroun’s conduct of the war in South Kordofan has also alienated members of the Misseriyya group which has previously been close to the government. Abd al-Rasul al-Nur, a prominent Misseriyya leader, has called upon the government to dismiss Haroun, accusing the governor – who is not from the region – of failing to consult with the people of South Kordofan over the resolution of the conflict.
Simon Tisdall, ‘Man blamed for Darfur Crisis says ‘I am at peace with myself’, The Guardian 4 December 2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/04/sudan-darfur-human-rights-war-crimes
International Crisis Group, ‘Justice, Peace and the ICC’, 17 July 2009, http://www.crisisgroup.org/ /media/Files/africa/horn-of-africa/sudan/Sudan%20Justice%20Peace%20and%20the%20ICC.pdf
‘South Kordofan Governor comes under renewed pressure over performance’, Sudan Tribune 28 February 2012, http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article41746.
‘South Kordofan Governor vows to sue al-Jazeera over “fabricated” video’, Sudan Tribune 3 April 2012, http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article42127.
‘ICC Indictee Haroun declared winner of South Kordofan Polls as ICC asserts rejection’, Sudan Tribune 15 May 2011, http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article38920
Isam Dahab, ‘Ahmad Muhammad Haroun...al-insan alladhi a’arafhu’, posted on SudaneseOnline 27 February 2002, http://www.sudaneseonline.com/cgi-bin/sdb/2bb.cgi?seq=msg&board=221&msg=1183279885
Ahmed Haroun Links
Wikipedia - Ahmed Haroun
Al Jazeera English | Inside Sudan - Southern Kordofan: Unfinished Business | 8 April 2012
With exclusive access, Al Jazeera investigates a hidden war in the remote state of Southern Kordofan in Sudan.Link to video here.
Al Jazeera English | ICC’s Luis Moreno-Ocampo speaks to Al Jazeera | 31 March 2012
Link to video here.