Lieutenant General Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir (Arabic: عمر حسن أحمد البشير; born 1 January 1944) is the 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.
In October 2005, 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 as 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 displaced over 2.5 million people and has created a crisis in the diplomatic relations between Sudan and Chad.
Al-Bashir is a 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. However, on 12 July 2010, after a lengthy appeal by the prosecution, the Court held that there was indeed sufficient evidence for charges of genocide to be brought and issued a second warrant containing three separate counts. The new warrant, as with the first, will be delivered to the Sudanese government, which is unlikely to execute it. Al-Bashir was the first sitting head of state indicted by the ICC. The court's decision is opposed by the African Union, League of Arab States, Non-Aligned Movement, and the governments of Russia and China. A leak from WikiLeaks allegedly reveals that the Sudanese president had embezzled state funds amounting to US$ 9 billion, to which the Lloyd's Bank of England later rejected as "Lloyds insisted it was not aware of any link with Bashir." This refutes the International Criminal Court prosecutor Ocampo, who said he has evidence of corruption, questioning his credibility in other events.
Early and family life
Al-Bashir was born in Hosh Bannaga, just north of the capital, Khartoum. He belongs to Al-Bedairya Al-Dahmashya a religious clan of the larger ja'alin tribe, an Arab tribe in middle north of Sudan, then part of the Kingdom of Egypt and Sudan. He received his primary education there, and his family later moved to Khartoum where he completed his secondary education. Al-Bashir is married to his cousin Fatima Khalid. He also has a second wife named Widad Babiker Omer, who had a number of children with her first husband Ibrahim Shamsaddin, a member of the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation who had died in a helicopter crash. He recently married for the third time. Al-Bashir does not have any children of his own.
He joined the Sudanese Army in 1960. Al-Bashir studied at the Egyptian Military Academy in Cairo and also graduated from the Sudan Military Academy in Khartoum in 1966. He quickly rose through the ranks and became a paratroop officer. Later, al-Bashir served in the Egyptian Army during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 against Israel.
In 1975, al-Bashir was sent to the United Arab Emirates as the Sudanese military attaché. After his return home al-Bashir was made a garrison commander. In 1981, al-Bashir returned to his paratroop background when he became the commander of an armoured parachute brigade.
On 16 October 1993, al-Bashir's powers increased when he appointed himself President of the country, after which he disbanded the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation and all other rival political parties. The executive and legislative powers of the council were later given to al-Bashir completely. In the early 1990s, al-Bashir's administration gave the green light to float a new currency called Sudanese Dinar to replace the battered old Sudanese Pound that had lost 90 percent of its worth during the turbulent 1980s. He was later elected president (with a five-year term) in the 1996 national election, where he was the only candidate by law to run for election and Hassan al-Turabi was elected to a seat in the National Assembly where he served as speaker of the National Assembly "during the 1990s." In 1998, al-Bashir and the Presidential Committee put into effect a new constitution, allowing limited political associations in opposition to al-Bashir's National Congress Party and his supporters to be formed, although these groups failed to gain any significant access to governmental power until the Darfur conflict became a subject. On 12 December 1999, al-Bashir sent troops and tanks against parliament and ousted Hassan al-Turabi, the speaker of parliament, in a palace coup. However, despite receiving international criticism regarding internal conflicts, Omar al-Bashir has managed to achieve economic growth in Sudan. This is partly because of the drilling and trading with oil from Southern Sudan.
Tensions with al-Turabi
In the mid-1990s, a feud between al-Bashir and al-Turabi began, mostly due to al-Turabi's links to Islamic fundamentalist groups, as well as allowing them to operate out of Sudan, even personally inviting Osama bin Laden to the country.
The United States had listed Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993, mostly due to al-Bashir and Hassan al-Turabi taking complete power in the early 1990s. U.S. firms have been barred from doing business in Sudan since 1997. In 1998, the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum was destroyed by a U.S. cruise missile strike because of its alleged production of chemical weapons and links to al-Qaeda. However the U.S. State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research wrote a report in 1999 questioning the attack on the factory, suggesting that the connection to bin Laden was not accurate; James Risen reported in the New York Times: "Now, the analysts renewed their doubts and told Assistant Secretary of State Phyllis Oakley that the C.I.A.'s evidence on which the attack was based was inadequate. Ms. Oakley asked them to double-check; perhaps there was some intelligence they had not yet seen. The answer came back quickly: There was no additional evidence. Ms. Oakley called a meeting of key aides and a consensus emerged: Contrary to what the Administration was saying, the case tying Al Shifa to Mr. bin Laden or to chemical weapons was weak."
After being re-elected President of Sudan with a five-year-term in the 1996 election with 75.7 percent of the votes, al-Bashir issued the registration of legalised political parties in 1999 after being influenced by al-Turabi. Rival parties such as the Liberal Democrats of Sudan and the Alliance of the Peoples' Working Forces, headed by former Sudanese President Gaafar Nimeiry, were established and were allowed to run for election against al-Bashir's National Congress Party, however, they failed to achieve significant support, and al-Bashir was re-elected President, receiving 86.5 percent of the vote in the 2000 presidential election. At the legislative elections that same year, al-Bashir's National Congress Party won 355 out of 360 seats, with al-Turabi as its chairman. However, after al-Turabi introduced a bill to reduce the president's powers, prompting al-Bashir to dissolve parliament and declare a state of emergency, tensions began to rise between al-Bashir and al-Turabi. Reportedly, al-Turabi was suspended as Chairman of National Congress Party, after he urged a boycott of the President's re-election campaign. Then, a splinter-faction led by al-Turabi, the Popular National Congress Party (PNC) signed an agreement with Sudan People's Liberation Army, which led al-Bashir to believe that they were plotting to overthrow him and the government.
Further on, al-Turabi's influence and that of his party's "'internationalist' and ideological wing" waned "in favor of the 'nationalist' or more pragmatic leaders who focus on trying to recover from Sudan's disastrous international isolation and economic damage that resulted from ideological adventurism." At the same time Sudan worked to appease the United States and other international critics by expelling members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and encouraging bin Laden to leave.
On al-Bashir's orders, al-Turabi was imprisoned based on allegations of conspiracy in 2000 before being released in October 2003. He was again imprisoned in the Kober (Cooper) prison in Khartoum in March 2004. He was released on 28 June 2005, in the height of the peace agreement in the civil war.
Civil war had raged between the northern and southern halves of the country for over 19 years between the northern Arab tribes and native southern African tribes, but the war soon effectively developed into a struggle between the Sudan People's Liberation Army and al-Bashir's government. The war resulted in millions of southerners being displaced, starved, and deprived of education and health care, with almost two million casualties. Because of these actions, various international sanctions were placed on Sudan. International pressure intensified in 2001, however, and leaders from the United Nations called for al-Bashir to make efforts to end the conflict and allow humanitarian and international workers to deliver relief to the southern regions of Sudan. Much progress was made throughout 2003. The peace was consolidated with the official signing by both sides of the Nairobi Comprehensive Peace Agreement January 9, 2005, granting Southern Sudan autonomy for six years, to be followed by a referendum about independence. It created a co-vice president position and allowed the north and south to split oil deposits equally, but also left both the north's and south's armies in place. John Garang, the south's peace agreement appointed co-vice president died in a helicopter crash on 1 August 2005, three weeks after being sworn in. This resulted in riots, but the peace was eventually re-established and allowed the southerners to vote in a referendum of independence at the end of the six-year period.
As the conflict in the south of Sudan began to subside, a new conflict had already begun in the western province of Darfur in early 2003. Unlike the Second Sudanese Civil War, this is believed to be an ethnic, rather than a religious war. The ethnic cleansing towards the non-Arab/Arabized population by the Janjaweed (literally "devils on horseback") militia has reportedly reached a death toll between 200,000 to 400,000, while the Sudanese government has denied this, saying the number of people who are killed in the conflict are less than 10,000.
The Sudanese government has been accused of suppressing information by jailing and killing witnesses since 2004, and tampering with evidence, such as covering up mass graves. The Sudanese government has also arrested and harassed journalists, thus limiting the extent of press coverage of the situation in Darfur. While the United States government has described the conflict as genocide, the UN has not recognized the conflict as such. (see List of declarations of genocide in Darfur).
In March 2007, the UN mission accused Sudan's government of orchestrating and taking part in "gross violations" in Darfur and called for urgent international action to protect civilians there. After fighting stopped in July and August, on 31 August 2006, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 1706 which called for a new 20,600-troop UN peacekeeping force called UNAMID to supplant or supplement a poorly funded and ill-equipped 7,000-troop African Union Mission in Sudan peacekeeping force. Sudan strongly objected to the resolution and said that it would see the UN forces in the region as foreign invaders. The next day, the Sudanese military launched a major offensive in the region.
The United States Government stated in September 2004 "that genocide has been committed in Darfur and that the Government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility and that genocide may still be occurring." Al-Bashir declared that the government had quashed the rebellion in February 2004, but rebels still operate within the region and the death toll continues to rise.
On 29 June 2004, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met with al-Bashir in Sudan and urged him to make peace with the rebels, end the crisis, and lift restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid to Darfur. Kofi Annan met with al-Bashir three days later and demanded that he disarm the Janjaweed. A high-level technical consultation was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 11–12 June 2007, pursuant to the 4 June 2007 letters of the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, which were addressed to al-Bashir. The technical consultations were attended by delegations from the Government of Sudan, the African Union and the United Nations.
During an interview with David Frost for the Al Jazeera English programme Frost Over The World in June 2008, al-Bashir insisted that no more than 10,000 had died in Darfur.
Omar al-Bashir has sought the assistance of numerous non western countries after the West, lead by America, imposed sanctions against him, he said- "From the first day, our policy was clear: To look eastward, toward China, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and even Korea and Japan, even if the Western influence upon some [of these] countries is strong. We believe that the Chinese expansion was natural because it filled the space left by Western governments, the United States, and international funding agencies. The success of the Sudanese experiment in dealing with China without political conditions or pressures encouraged other African countries to look toward China."
On October 26, 2011, Bashir said that Sudan gave military support to the Libyan rebels, who overthrew Col 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. President 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. He said God had given Sudan a chance to respond, by sending arms, ammunition and humanitarian support to the Libyan revolutionaries. "Our God, high and exalted, from above the seven skies, gave us the opportunity to reciprocate the visit," he said. "The forces which entered Tripoli, part of their arms and capabilities, were 100% Sudanese," he told the crowd. His speech was well received by a large crowd in the eastern Sudanese town of Kassala. But the easy availability of weapons in Libya, and that country's porous border with Darfur, are also of great concern to the Sudanese authorities.
On 14 July 2008, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno Ocampo, alleged that al-Bashir bore individual criminal responsibility for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed since 2003 in Darfur. The prosecutor accused al-Bashir of having "masterminded and implemented" a plan to destroy the three main ethnic groups, the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa, with a campaign of murder, rape and deportation. The arrest warrant is supported by NATO, the Genocide Intervention Network, and Amnesty International.
An arrest warrant for al-Bashir was issued on 4 March 2009 by a Pre-Trial chamber composed of judges Akua Kuenyehia of Ghana, Anita Usacka of Latvia, and Sylvia Steiner of Brazil indicting him on five counts of crimes against humanity (murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape) and two counts of war crimes (pillaging and intentionally directing attacks against civilians). The court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him for genocide. However, one of the three judges wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that there were "reasonable grounds to believe that Omar Al Bashir has committed the crime of genocide".
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told U.S. State Department officials on March 20, 2009 that President Bashir 'needed to be isolated.' Ocampo suggested if Bashir's stash of money were disclosed (he put the figure at possibly $9 billion), it would change Sudanese public opinion from him being a “crusader” to that of a thief.
Sudan is not a state party to the Rome Statute establishing the ICC, and thus claims that it does not have to execute the warrant. However, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1593 (2005) requires Sudan to cooperate with the ICC, and therefore the ICC, Amnesty International and others insist that Sudan must comply with the arrest warrant of the International Criminal Court. Amnesty International stated that al-Bashir must turn himself in to face the charges, and that the Sudanese authorities must detain him and turn him over to the ICC if he refuses.
Al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state ever indicted by the ICC. However, the Arab League and the African Union condemned the warrant. Al-Bashir has since visited Egypt and Qatar. Both countries refused to arrest him and surrender him to the ICC upon arrival. ICC member state Chad also refused to arrest al-Bashir during a state visit in July 2010. Luis Moreno Ocampo and Amnesty International claimed that al-Bashir's plane could be intercepted in International Airspace. Sudan announced that the presidential plane would always be escorted by fighter jets of the Sudanese Air Force to prevent his arrest.
The charges against al-Bashir have been criticised and ignored by interests in Sudan and abroad, particularly in Africa and the Muslim world. Former president of Libya and former Chairman of the African Union Muammar al-Gaddafi characterized the indictment as a form of terrorism. He also believed that the warrant is an attempt "by (the west) to recolonise their former colonies." Egypt said, it was "greatly disturbed" by the ICC decision and called for an emergency meeting of the UN security council to defer the arrest warrant. The Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa expressed that the organization emphasizes its solidarity with Sudan. The ICC warrant was condemned for "undermining the unity and stability of Sudan". The Organization of the Islamic Conference denounced the warrant as unwarranted and totally unacceptable. It was argued that the warrant demonstrates selectivity and double standards with concern to war crimes. There have been large demonstrations by Sudanese people supporting President Bashir and opposing the ICC charges. Others argue the warrant sets a dangerous precedent in international relations and could hamper efforts to bring peace to Sudan.
Al-Bashir has rejected the charges, saying "Whoever has visited Darfur, met officials and discovered their ethnicities and tribes ... will know that all of these things are lies." He described the charges as "not worth the ink they are written in". The warrant will be delivered to the Sudanese government, which has stated that it will not carry it out.
The Sudanese government retaliated against the warrant by expelling a number of international aid agencies, including Oxfam and Mercy Corps. President Bashir described the aid agencies as thieves who take "99 percent of the budget for humanitarian work themselves, giving the people of Darfur 1 percent" and as spies in the work of foreign regimes. Bashir promised that national agencies will provide aid to Darfur.
During a visit to Egypt, al-Bashir was not arrested, leading to condemnation by Amnesty International. In October 2009, al-Bashir was invited to Uganda by President Yoweri Museveni for an African Union meeting in Kampala, but did not attend after protest by several NGOs. On October 23, 2009, al-Bashir was invited to Nigeria by President Umaru Yar'Adua for another AU meeting, and was not arrested. In November, he was invited to Turkey for an OIC meeting. Later, he was invited to Denmark to attend conferences on climate change in Copenhagen.
Al-Bashir was one of the candidates in the 2010 Sudanese presidential election, the first democratic election with multiple political parties participating in decades. It had been suggested that by holding and winning a legitimate presidential elections in 2010, al-Bashir had hoped to evade the ICC's warrant for his arrest. On April 26, he was officially declared the winner after Sudan's election commission announced he had received 68% of the votes cast in the election. However, The New York Times noted the voting was "marred by boycotts and reports of intimidation and widespread fraud."
Al-Bashir visited Kenya on 27 August 2010 to witness the President signing Kenya's new constitution into law. In May 2011, al-Bashir visited Djibouti to attend the inauguration of President Ismail Omar Guelleh's third term. In June of the same year, China's president Hu received al-Bashir as "friend and brother" in Beijing, fostering China's interests in Sudan's resources. Al-Bashir was received in Libya along with a high-level delegation in January 2012 in a bid to restore friendly relations and offer support to the new Libyan government after the fall of Gaddafi.
The initial ICC charges against al-Bashir, which included seven counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, were issued in March 2009 but did not include genocide counts. On appeal, the lower court was found by appellate judge Erkki Kourula to have erred in law and was ordered to reexamine the evidence for genocide. Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo anticipated that the reexamination could lead to charges within four to twelve months. Then, on February 3, 2010, the judges at the International Criminal Court held that the Pre-Trial Chamber had improperly dismissed the genocide charges against al-Bashir and ordered the Pre-Trial Chamber to reconsider them.
On July 12, 2010, the Pre-Trial Chamber applied the standard of evidence stated by the appellate court, and held that there was sufficient evidence to issue a second arrest warrant for the crime of genocide. A second arrest warrant for President al-Bashir was later issued with three added counts of genocide. The new warrant included the Court's conclusion that:
- "There are reasonable grounds to believe that (Omar al-Bashir) acted with specific intent to destroy in part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups in the troubled Darfur region".
The ICC released a further statement saying that al-Bashir's charges now include "genocide by killing, genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm and genocide by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group's physical destruction" in three separate counts. The new warrant will act as a supplement to the first, whereby the charges initially brought against al-Bashir will all remain in place, but will now include the crime of genocide which was ruled out initially, pending appeal.
On 28 August 2010 in Nairobi, Kenya chose not to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on International Criminal Court (ICC) charges of genocide when he arrived on Friday for a ceremony for the East African nation's new constitution. He was escorted into Nairobi's Uhuru Park, where the signing ceremony was taking place, by Tourism minister Najib Balala. On 28 November 2011, Kenya's High Court Judge Nicholas Ombija ordered the Minister of Internal Security to arrest al-Bashir, "should he set foot in Kenya in the future".
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