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ANALYSIS-Sudan’s Bashir vulnerable despite defiant front

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ANALYSIS-Sudan’s Bashir vulnerable despite defiant front

Wed Apr 1, 2009 7:39am EDT

By Andrew Heavens KHARTOUM, April 1 (Reuters)

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s defiant response to international efforts to arrest him for war crimes in Darfur hides vulnerabilities that could embolden his enemies. On Wednesday, Bashir travelled to Saudi Arabia in another challenge to the arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court on March 4 over seven charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bashir’s visits — he has now made five trips abroad in just over a week, showing the court’s inability to arrest him — have won expressions of support from Arab countries and a measure of public admiration back home. “If there was an election now, he would win it. The people admire a strong man and he has also managed to show himself as a victim of the West,” said Faizal Silaik, deputy editor of daily newspaper Ajras al-Huriya. Bashir has also closed down 16 aid groups accused of helping the court and addressed a string of nationalistic rallies. “All the Sudanese people have rallied around their leadership against these allegations,” Bashir himself was quoted as saying on state news agency Suna. But his stance has done nothing to resolve major issues that could eventually loosen his hold on power. Those include the festering conflict in Darfur, oil-dependent Sudan’s sinking economy, fears over a fragile peace deal between north and south Sudan, and relations with the United States and United Nations that have worsened since the aid expulsions. “He (Bashir) gives the appearance of a strong position. But that is more apparent than real,” said one Western diplomat in Khartoum. “The regime remains fragile. People are looking for weakness. If they see him falter they will throw him overboard.” DARFUR THREAT The most immediate challenge could come from Darfur itself. The rebel Justice and Equality Movement attacked Khartoum last year and has promised to return, threatening to arrest Bashir themselves if nobody acts to hand him over to the court. The rebels say their resolve will be sharpened if Bashir manages to remain at large. “It will show the only hope we have is through our guns,” JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim told Reuters by satellite phone. Sudan’s economy is another area of weakness. During the boom years of soaring oil prices, Bashir’s government was easily able to pay supporters, civil servants, soldiers and militias. But the collapse in the global oil price has emptied government coffers. “When the government stops giving them enough for their day to day life, will they stand with him? Surely not,” the vice president of Sudan’s opposition Umma party Fadlalla Burma Nasir told Reuters. The Umma party opposes the arrest warrant. It is still unclear which, if any, of Sudan’s political forces could stand up to Bashir and his power base in the Sudanese army. Opposition parties have weakened and splintered in the almost 20 years since Bashir seized power in a bloodless coup. The south’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) — in a coalition government with Bashir’s National Congress Party since a 2005 peace deal that ended two decades of north-south civil war — has so far stood by its political partner. But that could all change if Bashir shows signs of backing down on any parts of the fragile Comprehensive Peace Agreement, most importantly the highly-prized referendum on southern independence it promised in 2011. There are a host of other issues Bashir will have to face if he wants to keep the south stable and relatively on side — not least south Sudan’s own even deeper economic crisis, caused by the region’s near total dependency on oil revenues. INTERNAL CHALLENGE? Some Western diplomats and political analysts believe that a challenge from within Bashir’s own party is possible. Potential plotters could be spurred on by any sign of further sanctions from the U.N. Security Council, imposed over Sudan’s refusal to deal with the ICC or its aid expulsions. “He owns the aid problem now. If there is a cholera outbreak or a meningitis epidemic, it was the government that said it would take care of it,” said the Western diplomat. There is scope for the United Nations to expand sanctions against Sudan — its arms embargo currently only covers Darfur and it has the power to freeze the assets of Sudan’s political elite and restrict their travel. “That is the question — what are the Security Council’s next steps going to be, more sanctions?” said Hafiz Mohammed, Sudan programme coordinator for London-based campaign group Justice Africa. “Already some wise people are starting to come forward in Sudan saying this can not continue.” So far, there have been few signals from abroad to encourage internal plotters. U.S. President Barack Obama has yet to give details on how he will deal with Bashir’s regime. “Bashir is strong in the short term — maybe for the next six or seven months, maybe even a year. But in the long term we are all losers,” said one senior opposition figure. “If there is no change, if Bashir just goes on without settling the Darfur situation … then things are going to be very bad in Sudan.” (Additional reporting by Skye Wheeler in Juba; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

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Written by torit1955

April 2, 2009 at 8:23 am

Omar Al Bashir: To Travel or Not to Travel

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Sunday 22 March 2009 05:00.

March 21, 2009 (KHARTOUM) — The highest Islamic authority in Sudan issued an opinion today saying that president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir should not travel to attend the annual Arab summit in Qatar this month.

The move came as senior Sudanese officials today left the door open for Bashir to cancel his scheduled appearance at the summit despite earlier assertions that he will attend.

On March 4th the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber I at the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which include murder, rape and torture.

Yesterday Reuters reported that the ICC’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo was in New York to urge countries to act on the ICC arrest warrant against Bashir.

“As soon as he travels through the international airspace he could be arrested. Slobodan Milosevic and Charles Taylor show that the destiny of Mr. Bashir is to face justice” he said.

“Two months or two years will depend on the state and how they act. But his destiny is to face justice” Ocampo asserted.

The pro-government Sudanese media center website published the findings of the board which has the power to issue Fatwas [religious opinions] and make the final say on any disputed topics from an Islamic perspective.

“This is an appeal and fatwa from the Islamic scholars board presided by its council and its general secretariat on the forbidding the president of the republic to attend the Arab summit in Qatar in light of the current circumstances where enemies of Allah and the nation are surrounding him” the statement read.

“Fearing for the sake to prevent danger is following orders of god and the prophet and forfeiting chances of the enemies of Allah by staying inside Sudan with your people and angering the infidels”.

The Sudanese president said in an interview with Egypt’s independent Al-Isboa weekly published Saturday that he will fly to Doha to attend the Arab summit for which he received an official invitation a week ago.

But today the presidential press secretary Mahjoub Badri told the pro-government Al-Rayaam that no final decision has been made on Bashir’s trip.

Government sources told the London based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper that there is division within the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) on the issue.

The newspaper quoted the sources as saying that some officials say the trip as necessary to prove that Bashir is not affected by the ICC ruling while others believe it is not worth the risk.

The Sudanese defense minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein said that discussions are still ongoing on Bashir’s travel and if agreed on will be surrounded by “security and military precautions”.

Sudan had previously announced that it is making special security arrangements for the travel of Bashir to Doha which reportedly includes fighter jets guarding the presidential plane.

Khartoum is particularly worried by prospects of foreign fighters intercepting Bashir’s plane and forcing to land in a country where he can be apprehended.

Sudan summoned the French ambassador this week over statements attributed to Eric Chevallier, spokesman of the French foreign ministry in which he suggested that his government will support any operation aimed at arresting the Sudanese president through intercepting the plane.

The French government said Chevallier’s was misquoted by the London based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper which interviewed him.

This week the Sudanese former president Siwar Al-Dahab urged Bashir to exercise “patience and wisdom” and not risk travelling to Doha “for his safety and the safety of Sudanese people”.

Also Sudanese newspapers reported that a one day sit in is scheduled on Sunday by pro-Bashir supporters to ask for cancellation of appearance at Doha summit.

Written by torit1955

March 22, 2009 at 9:04 am

Posted in ICC and Darfur Crisis

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Sudan defiant on warning by French president over ICC indictment

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December 9, 2008 (PARIS) — The Sudanese government reacted angrily to statements by French president Nicolas Sarkozy in which he warned that president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir has “little time” to take bold steps that brings peace to the war ravaged region of Darfur.

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French President Nicholas Sarkozy listens as Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, not seen, makes his introductory speech at a conference, in London, Monday Dec. 8, 2008 (AP)

“Either he changes his attitude and the international community can hold discussions with him, or he does not change his attitude and will have to face up to his responsibilities, including before the International Criminal Court” Sarkozy said in an address to mark 60 years since the adoption of the UN rights declaration.

The remarks drew sharp rebuke from Khartoum.

“France has always played a negative role in the Darfur peace process since the Abuja talks in 2006” the Sudanese foreign spokesperson Ali Al-Sadiq told the daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat today.

“The statements by the French president sends wrong signals to Darfur rebels” he added.

Khartoum and Paris often thorny relations appeared to be improving particularly after a meeting between Sarkozy and Al-Bashir in the Arab Gulf state of Qatar on the sidelines of the UN development conference.

Following the meeting Al-Bashir said that his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy pledged to pressure a rebel leader to attend any future peace talks.

Al-Bashir also said that he sensed a “positive development” on the French stance with regards to the International Criminal Court (ICC) issue before adding that no agreement has been reached.

The embattled Sudanese president faces a possible arrest warrant by the ICC for allegedly orchestrating genocide in Darfur.

The ICC judges are still reviewing the evidence before making a ruling that could come as early as next month.

The African Union (AU), Arab League, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) called for invoking Article 16 which allows the UNSC to suspend the ICC prosecutions in any case for a period of 12 months that can be renewed indefinitely.

France has been the only country to publicly offer Sudan a suspension of charges in return for concessions on the ground with regard to the Darfur crisis and relations with neighboring Chad.

Sudanese officials have appeared increasingly optimistic that Paris and London will push for a suspension.

However, Eric Chevalier, the spokesperson of the French foreign ministry told reporters today that stalling the ICC move “is not on the table”.

“We are waiting from the Sudanese government what its people want to see particularly in Darfur” Chevalier said in statements reported by Italian news agency (AKI).

“A radical and immediate change for policies taken by authorities particularly on ceasefire, strengthening relations with Chad, removing obstacles for deployment of peacekeepers and complying with ICC decisions” he added.

The French official further said that his government supports Qatari mediation efforts in Darfur “as long as it doesn’t raise the issue of invoking Article 16 as its goal”.

But Al-Sadiq reiterated his government’s position that they will not cooperate with The Hague based court.

The Sudanese ambassador in Paris Suleiman Mustafa said that “no one will force to deal with the ICC or open channels with it or take any move in that direction”.

Mustafa called on countries “that blame Sudan” to press the Darfur rebel groups to respond to peace efforts.

In the heart of disagreements between the two countries is the presence of Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur leader of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) in France despite demands by Khartoum that he be expelled.

Al-Nur has been refusing to attend peace talks insisting that Khartoum honor a ceasefire and facilitate deployment of UN peacekeepers in Darfur.

UN experts estimate some 300,000 people have died and 2.5 million driven from their homes. Sudan blames the Western media for exaggerating the conflict and puts the death toll at 10,000.

(ST)

Written by torit1955

December 10, 2008 at 6:04 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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