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Profile: Omar Al Bashir | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, the General who became the Sudanese Head of State following the Islamist-backed coup d’état in 1989 and is the first President to be served with a warrant for arrest by the International Criminal Court [ICC] whilst in power.

In his two decades in power of the largest African country, Sudan has witnessed two civil wars; the first in Southern Sudan which ended following a peace agreement in 2005, and the second in Darfur which has been raging since 2003.

According to the United Nations, the conflict in Darfur has resulted in a death-toll of approximately 300 thousand, while Al-Bashir estimates this number as being only ten thousand. The ICC has accused President Al-Bashir of being complicit in these crimes, and has issued a warrant for his arrest in order to try him for war crimes in The Hague.

Omar Al-Bashir was born in 1944 in the village of Hoshe Bannaga in Northern Sudan. He joined the Sudanese army in 1960, and graduated from the Sudan Military Academy in Khartoum in 1966. Al-Bashir quickly ascended the military ranks, and served at the front with the Egyptian army during the 1973 Arab – Israeli war.

Al-Bashir’s other military posts included a stint as military attaché in the United Arab Emirates between 1975 – 79, a garrison commander between 1979- 81, he also commanded the Sudanese Eighth armored parachute brigade between 1981-87. He commanded this brigade during the second Sudanese Civil War which erupted in 1983 between the government and the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM].

On 30 June 1989, General Al-Bashir, along with a group of military officers, toppled the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, in a bloodless coup supported by the National Islamic Front led by Sheik Hassan Al-Turabi. Sheik Al-Turabi initially supported Al-Bashir, but would later became his main opponent.

Following the coup, the new military government declared a state of emergency, and suspended the constitution and suppressed all political parties, while also introducing aspects of Islamic Shariaa Law to the country. Al Bashir appointed himself Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation, which was the newly established governmental body with legislative and executive power, while also assuming the posts of Chief of State, Prime Minister, Commander of the Armed Forces, and Minister of Defense. In 1991, influenced by Sheik Al Turabi, Al-Bashir passed the Criminal Act which introduced Islamic Shariaa to all provinces of Sudan except the South.

In the 90s, Sudan became a haven for the “Jihadist” who were fighting in Afghanistan, including Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden was later expelled from Sudan following pressure from the United States.

On 16 October 1993, Al-Bashir appointed himself President of Sudan, and disbanded the Revolutionary Command Council, announcing a return to civilian rule. In 1996 Omar Al-Bashir was elected President for 5 years, in non-party elections, with 75.7% of the vote.

In January 1999, President Al-Bashir and Sheik Al Turabi set up the National Congress Party, however in November of that year Al Turabi attempted to introduce a bill to limit Presidential powers. This prompted Al-Bashir to dissolve parliament, and declare a state of emergency. And so the relationship between the “military” Al-Bashir and the “Islamist” Al-Turabi deteriorated, and Al-Turabi was suspended from the National Congress Party after urging the boycott of the President’s re-election campaign. Al-Bashir was re-elected in December 2000 with 85.5% of the vote.

Al-Turabi was arrested in 2001 by Al-Bashir and charged with attempting to overthrow the government after his new party, the Popular National Congress signed an agreement with the rebel SPLM. Al Turabi was released in October 2003.

In 2005 Al-Bashir’s regime signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the SPLM which paved the way for power-sharing, and a 2011 referendum regarding the secession of the Southern province.

Al Bashir’s reign as President of Sudan is the longest since the country’s independence in 1956, and is as a result of his close ties to the military. US historian Robert Collins

has said “Do not forget that he was a soldier before he was a politician.”

Al-Bashir’s private life is shrouded in mystery. It is known that he has two wives, his first wife his cousin Fatima Khalid, while his second wife is Widad Babiker, a widow of a Sudanese military hero. Al-Bashir has no children.

There has been conflict in Darfur for the previous 6 years, resulting in countless death and destruction. The ICC has issued a warrant for President Al-Bashir, accusing him of war crimes. This is the first warrant issued by the ICC to an incumbent President. Al-Bashir claims that this is part of an external plot to remove him from power; while the ICC claims that he is complicit in the crimes committed in Darfur. Al-Bashir has said that Sudan will not cooperate with the ICC, but Khartoum is a signatory to the Rome Statute of the ICC, which allows suspects to be arrested in any signatory countries.