|“||There are elements in the United States that want political change in Sudan. Some groups in the U.S. Congress, for example, are hostile to us, and whatever we do, we are unacceptable and would never be acceptable to them.||„|
|~ Omar al-Bashir, Asharq Alawsat, Feb 17, 2007|
Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir (January 1st, 1944 - ) is a Sudanese politician who served as the seventh President of Sudan and the head of the National Congress Party. He came to power in 1989 when he, as a brigadier in the Sudanese army, led a group of officers in a bloodless military coup that ousted the government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi. He remained in power for 30 years until April 2019, when he was deposed by Sudanese military forces.
In October 2004, al-Bashir's government negotiated an end to the Second Sudanese Civil War, one of the longest-running and deadliest wars of the 20th century, by granting limited autonomy to Southern Sudan dominated by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Since then, however, there has been a violent conflict in Darfur that has resulted in death tolls between 200,000 and 400,000. During his presidency, there have been several violent struggles between the Janjaweed militia and rebel groups such the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in the form of guerrilla warfare in the Darfur region. The civil war has resulted in over 2.5 million people being displaced, and the diplomatic relations between Sudan and Chad being at a crisis level.
Al-Bashir is controversial figure both in Sudan and worldwide. In July 2008, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno Ocampo, accused al-Bashir of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. The court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on 4 March 2009 on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him for genocide.
Since February 2003, Bashir’s campaign of ethnic and religious persecution has killed at least 180,000 civilians in Darfur in western Sudan and driven 2 million people from their homes. The good news is that Bashir’s army and the Janjaweed militia that he supports have all but stopped burning down villages in Darfur. The bad news is why they’ve stopped: there are few villages left to burn. The attacks now are aimed at refugee camps, most of which are situated along Sudan's border with Chad.
While the media have called these actions “a humanitarian tragedy,” Bashir himself has escaped major condemnation. In 2005, Bashir signed a peace agreement with the largest rebel group in non-Islamic southern Sudan and allowed its leader, John Garang, to become the nation’s vice president. But Garang died in July in a helicopter crash, and Bashir’s troops still occupy the south. On 9 July 2011, following a referendum, the region of Southern Sudan separated into an independent country known as South Sudan.
Other acts of villainy
- In 2015, Sudan participated in the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen against the Shia Houthis and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was deposed in the 2011 uprising. Reuters reported, "The war in Yemen has given Omar Hassan al-Bashir, a skilled political operator who has ruled Sudan for a quarter-century, an opportunity to show wealthy Sunni powers that he can be an asset against Iranian influence – if the price is right."
- During al-Bashir's three-decade tenure ruling Sudan, he allegedly looted the impoverished nation of much of its wealth. According to leaked US diplomatic cables, $9 billion of his siphoned wealth was stashed in London banks. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor, stated that some of the funds were being held in the partially nationalized Lloyds Banking Group. He also reportedly told US officials it was necessary to go public with the scale of Al-Bashir's extortion to turn public opinion against him.
- During the late 1990's, al-Bashir granted asylum to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
- On 26 October 2011, Al Bashir said that Sudan gave military support to the Libyan rebels who overthrew Muammar Gaddafi. In a speech broadcast live on state television, Bashir said the move was in response to Col Gaddafi's support for Sudanese rebels three years ago. Sudan and Libya have had a complicated and frequently antagonistic relationship for many years.
- al-Bashir said the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a Darfuri rebel group, had attacked Khartoum three years ago using Libyan trucks, equipment, arms, ammunition and money.
- Sudan under al-Bashir supported Saddam Hussein in the invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Gulf War.
- Some organizations, in particular Christian Solidarity Worldwide and related organizations, argue that enslavement exists in Sudan and is encouraged by the Sudanese government.
Removal from power and aftermath
On April 11, 2019, al-Bashir was removed from power by Sudanese military forces. This came in light of protests over the last several months demanding his resignation. He was immediately placed under house arrest pending the formation of a transitional council. At the time of his arrest, al-Bashir had "ruled Sudan longer than any other leader since the country gained independence in 1956". The army also arrested all ministers of al-Bashir's cabinet, dissolved the National Legislature and formed a Transitional Military Council, led by his own First Vice President and Defense Minister, Lieutenant General Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf.
More than 100 of al-Bashir's allies, including Prime Minister Mohamed Taher Ayala, National Congress Party leader and ICC fugitive for war crimes and crimes against humanity Ahmed Haroun, member of the National Congress Awad Al-Jaz, and former vice presidents Bakri Hassan Saleh and Ali Othman Taha were also arrested. Former defense minister and Khartoum state Governor Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein, also subject to an ICC arrest warrant for war crimes and crimes against humanity, was also arrested.
On 17 April 2019, two prison officials, as well as members of al-Bashir's family, confirmed that al-Bashir was transferred from the presidential palace, where he had been under house arrest, to Khartoum's Kobar maximum security prison. Al-Bashir was reported to be surrounded by tight security and held in solitary confinement, in the same prison where he had held political prisoners during his time in power. This came a day after Uganda's Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Oryem Okello considered offering the former Sudan President asylum in Uganda. Several other allies of al-Bashir are being held at the prison as well. The reports of al-Bashir's transfer were later confirmed to Al Jazeera by a prison guard. Military council spokesman Shams Eldin Kabashi added that two of al-Bashir's brothers, Abdullah al-Bashir and Alabas al-Bashir, were arrested as well.
On 5 November 2019, the Forces of Freedom and Change alliance (FFC), which holds indirect political power during the 39-month Sudanese transition to democracy, stated that it had reached a consensus decision in favour of transferring al-Bashir to the ICC after the completion of his corruption and money laundering trial. In the following days, Sudanese transition period Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Sovereignty Council member Siddiq Tawer stated that al-Bashir would be transferred to the ICC.
On 11 February 2020, Sudan's ruling military council agreed to hand over the ousted al-Bashir to the ICC in The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity in Darfur.