If the International Criminal Court (ICC) manages to prosecute Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s former president, for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide it will be because the new Sudanese regime arrested and extradited him. African parties to the ICC, who had a legal duty to detain al-Bashir, avoided or refused this dramatic step and instead made a regional commitment to shield him. This article analyses the question of non-cooperation in relation to the most basic challenge facing African governments: their survival. Drawing on the notion of the ‘gatekeeper state’, it theorises three sources of regime security, which variously converge and conflict: border control, domestic alliances and international support. Cooperation with the ICC may yield international support, while contradicting or undermining border control and domestic alliances A case study of Chad’s non-cooperation illustrates the framework and the dynamic interplay of the sources of regime security that cause shifts between cooperation and non-cooperation in African gatekeeper states. More generally, the article demonstrates the merits of analysing African non-cooperation in the context of a dynamic politics of regime survival.