South Sudan’s leader – a frequent critic of President Omar al-Bashir – agrees that an arrest of the Sudanese president, although deserving, could bring more problems than benefits to the violence-wracked African country, according to American evangelist Franklin Graham.
Graham, who takes a similar position, said he flew to meet Salva Kiir – South Sudan's leader and also vice president of Sudan – in Juba, immediately after meeting President Omar al-Bashir Wednesday morning.
Both Kiir and Graham discussed the dangers to Sudan that could result from the International Criminal Court's issuing an arrest warrant for Bashir for the violence in Darfur.
Both agreed that peace in Sudan is “far more important than the need to arrest the president,” Graham reported in a statement.
“While President al-Bashir should be brought to justice, President Kiir and I share grave concerns about the real and dangerous effects of the action,” said Graham, who leads Samaritan’s Purse as well as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
In an op-ed posted in the New York Times on Tuesday, Graham argues that Sudan would be better off with Bashir remaining in power for a short-time period than if he was arrested immediately. The high-profile Christian leader, who has met with Bashir in person four times, contends that there are no guarantees that the person who replaces him will be better.
Instead, those loyal to Bashir would likely engage in violent protests and the hard-won 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the 20-year civil war between North and South Sudan would likely unravel.
“Mr. Bashir, who fought members of his own party to approve the deal, is critical to the peace process,” Graham contends.
The humanitarian leader proposes to postpone the court proceedings for 12 months to allow Sudan time to establish peace and transfer power. Bashir, Graham says, should use the time to fulfill the peace agreement with South Sudan and work with the international community to bring stability to Darfur.
In his latest report, Graham said he held discussions on religious freedom, human rights, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and the situation in Darfur with President Bashir during their Wednesday meeting. In light of the pending ICC charges, Graham also said he challenged Bashir to stand up for peace.
“Millions of lives throughout Sudan, not just Darfur, will be at risk if the already-fragile government is destabilized and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) unravels. The already-desperate situation could turn disastrous,” Graham warns in his report on Wednesday.
“As unpleasant as it may be to deal with an indicted criminal, the world can not afford to let this progress unravel,” he says. “Now is a time for Christians worldwide to pray for peace in Sudan.”
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the country's president after the Juba meeting with Graham.
In retaliation to the ICC charge, the central Sudanese government has order the expulsion of 10 humanitarian groups from Darfur. The ten organizations are the largest providers of aid in the country, and their expulsion threatens a crisis for more than 2 million Sudanese left without aid. The aid groups were told to leave immediately.