[Asharq Al-Awsat] Mr. President, is there anything new in the official position with expectations that the ICC will issue a decision to arrest your Excellency at any moment?
[Al-Bashir] This issue is not about justice but is a political issue. Sudan rejects the ICC because we are not members in it, and consequently it has no jurisdiction on Sudan. By its nature, it complements the national judiciary and is not a substitute for it, especially since we are a sovereign, independent State with a competent judiciary body whose judges are capable and have established testimony to their experience, knowledge, and capability outside and inside the country.
From another angle, what about the issues seen internationally, led by what is going on in Gaza? This is not a fabricated issue. The world is a witness to it. Yet, an official says the ICC has no role in this on the grounds that Israel is not an ICC member.
As for us, we have left behind our backs the affair of this court and what it claims. We sum it all up in one sentence, namely that what is taking place in this connection is “a mosquito in the ear of an elephant”.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Mr. President, there are pressures on the partisan political leaderships to announce their position on the ICC. How can they be able to do so when they see what happened to Dr Hassan al-Turabi who has been arrested and is still in prison because he stated that you must give yourself up?
[Al-Bashir] We do not sequester anybody in announcing their position on any public issue. We go by the guidance of the constitution and the law. You see the people and the political parties holding seminars and conferences that are broadcast even by the governmental media outlets. But when there is plotting and communication with suspect quarters, and when there are attempts to split national ranks that have converged on one word, namely rejection of all attempts to undermine the sovereignty and independence of the country, then the necessary legal procedures must be initiated in the case of all those against whom reasonable evidence is available. No one is bigger than the law.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you not believe that the country, both the government and the people, have since Ocampo’s appearance become as if they are hostages, between those who reject the decision [arrest warrant] and those who support it. In all events, there is no talk about anything else.
[Al-Bashir] Those who follow Sudanese affairs must notice easily that life in our country is going on its normal course. There are always more services, achievements, investments, rehabilitation, and establishment for the foundations of comprehensive and sustainable development. Perhaps the inauguration of the Merowe electricity station–the time for its operation has come after enormous work–provides shining proof that we are not hostages to any suspect movements. Actually the opposite is true, for plots only increase our strength and determination to go forward with ensuring security and prosperity for our country and our citizens.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about talk about thought being given to an internal coup, and about insurrections because of thoughts of removing your Excellency to search for a way out? What are the worst scenarios, in your view?
[Al-Bashir] First, the talk about a coup process inside the authority or a split in the ranks of the NCP is merely wishful thinking and organized rumors propagated by the opposition. The reaction of the street and its support is very clear. This is something that is 100 per cent positive.
We have no fear of a coup or an insurrection. Throughout the era of Al-Ingaz [Salvation] (June 1989), we have gone through worse conditions and heavier pressures and blockade. The attempts are still continuing, and the campaigns against Sudan go on. There is organized action to prevent investments in Sudan, yet we are among the countries that receive the most investments.
The sustained pressures apparently produce positive results for us. To avoid a petroleum embargo, we extracted our petroleum. We also succeeded in manufacturing our weapons and equipment. This is what the world witnessed in the military parade on the First of January celebrations of our Independence Day celebrations. We adapt to the pressures and they become akin to incentives for us.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] To what extent do you count on popular support internally, under the shadow of global precedents proving that popular support becomes fragmented under heavy pressures, temptations, and intimidation?
[Al-Bashir] Support is a grace from Allah that He grants to whomever he wishes, and Allah has Great Grace. The fusion of the people with their leadership is an accolade of honor our proud people have bestowed on us. I personally feel the love of this honorable people, just as I felt it after the emergence of the plot by those who manipulate the ICC on the surface of the events. I may remind that our people and our country have their unique advantage; they cannot be penetrated like other countries have been penetrated. We are one people who have faith and who wage jihad for the sake of preserving their sovereignty and independence. The President of the Republic is but a symbol of this sovereignty and independence.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are many question marks about the position of your partner in government, the SPLM, toward the ICC, especially the position of its leader, First-Vice President Mr. Salva Kiir Mayardit–let alone the position of Mr. Mani Arkoi Minawi, the senior presidential assistant and head of the Sudan Liberation Movement. How safe do you feel with the two Vice-Presidents [Mayardit and Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha] and their mass followers?
[Al-Bashir] The SPLM is an integral partner and we are in the same boat. Perhaps the position of the movement and its chief, the First Vice-President, is clear and announced. It does not require much elucidation from us, but there are attempts to fish in murky water and these are part of the desperate attempts to fragment the position of our country. We are fully committed to what the Constitution stipulates. We shall show the world how our country leads the convoy of civilization by making great pledges and being true to them. The first of these is peaceful alternation on power, repelling injustices, and the rule of the law.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Mr. President, no matter how positions move apart or converge, the greater attention continues to be on the need to provide an effective solution to the problem of Darfur and similar provinces, especially since some of them witnesses tensions going to the extent of infighting and combat?
[Al-Bashir] We have affirmed and still affirm that dialogue is the only means of solving the Darfur problem and any other problems. The People of Sudan conference on solving the Darfur problem, to which we invited all political hues, conducted an extensive dialogue and came out with a group of recommendations. We drafted a list from these recommendations which is now in actual implementation. We take this opportunity to affirm our support to the Arab-African Initiative under the leadership of the State of Qatar and any other initiative that supports a peaceful solution to this problem that we have spared no effort to solve. This is seen in the Abuja Agreement on Darfur peace and numerous initiatives, including the movement forward with the development of the province.
The basis of the Darfur problem is the scarcity of resources and the weakness of services, despite what we have provided. We shall proceed apace in pursuing a peaceful solution and providing more services. Darfur will be integrated with the national electricity network. There are many provinces that suffer like Darfur. Perhaps the Northern State, which will provide electricity to all of Sudan, is one of the provinces that provide [probably typographical mistake for ‘receive’] the least services and development.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Mr. President, returnees to the country after some absence notice more urbanization and development projects. But they soon notice and hear lots of complaints about social gaps and rampant corruption; about what the lucky ones enjoy in the way of favors and privileges?
[Al-Bashir] Urban progress does not come alone. It is a measure of overall progress and development. The owners of these buildings are the sons of those people, and their wealth must spill over to their relatives and other workers. This is a blessing from Allah on our country which will, with Allah’s permission, come out of the circle of poverty after the availability of roads and energy. The Merowe Dam will be a barrier between us and poverty. There is also the agricultural renaissance and decent housing for every citizen–actually the [the goal of a] computer in every house–in addition to the educational revolution, heavy industrialization, and economic liberalization.
As for talk about corruption and nepotism, this is rejected talk. Our country is open, and the justice and judiciary systems allow any complainant to come forward with his case to the courts. As for propagating rumors and smear campaigns without proof, this is an injustice and defamation of people’s reputations without evidence. This kind of talk does not find attentive ears with us.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some people believe that the population census will create deep differences among the partners in government. Are you annoyed at the delay in announcing its results, especially as the date of the elections and their validity approaches?
[Al-Bashir] The census is a painstaking and complicated technical process. It needs to take its time. We are assured of its results because we followed the scientific criteria and the transparency with which it was conducted, as well as the monitoring imposed on all its phases through specialized regional and international organizations. So there is no room for auctioneering here. Our country is open to all those who seek the truth and wish to stand on the ground of reality to convey with integrity the events going on in the country.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your comment on the emergence of a rival for you in the coming presidential elections, namely Dr Abdullah Ali Ibrahim? What advice do you offer him on the basis of your experience?
[Al-Bashir] There are numerous experiences. I for instance entered the last elections and had many competitors. There is nothing to prevent any qualified person who meets the criteria drafted and defined by the elections committee from entering the presidential elections. My felicitations to Dr Abdullah Ali Ibrahim–an academic activist, political thinker, and popular writer–as he advances with all courage to enter the presidential elections. The masses have the right of choice.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There is a complaint that there is almost a division in roles. The President makes a speech and extends his hand to everybody, but hard-liners come after him to erase what he said in a clear narrowing of the area for differences and pluralism in the country?
[Al-Bashir] We are a State of institutions and we do not manage our problems through the media. There is no blame on anybody who makes a statement that represents his opinion on some position. The grounds on which every position stands are what counts.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There has been lots of talk that the new American President is a new face for an old coin. Are you optimistic about any changes he might introduce?
[Al-Bashir] President Obama has announced political changes that we welcome. We are open toward the changes he may introduce toward Sudan, and we shall go along with them.
Former President George Bush began his era by a positive policy toward Sudan. He played a fundamental role in reaching the [Naivasha] peace agreement. Then he turned around and changed his course. To return to the present, if President Obama continues in his positive changes and if we felt a change, then we are ready for all the changes he will introduce toward the Islamic world and toward us.