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Profile: Ali Osman Taha

September 22 - 2011 HILVERSUm

Ali Osman Mohammed Taha (1944- )

Position: First vice president, Republic of Sudan

Party: National Congress Party (NCP)

Origins: Arab, northern Sudan Sheigiya tribe

A honed vice president

Ali Osman Mohamed Taha was appointed to the position of the first vice president of Sudan on September 13, replacing Salva Kiir, who had to resign from his position because he took up the post of the president of newly independent South Sudan.

Taha previously served as first vice president between 1998-2005. Prior to that, he held the finance minister's portfolio for three years. Between 2005-2011, he was second vice president of Sudan.

A law graduate from Khartoum University, Taha was a practising lawyer before he entered Sudanese politics. He was a member of the opposition National Islamic Front during Sudan's third democratic period between 1986-1989. He won a seat in parliament during this period and established himself as a rising member.

A close aide

He worked closely with Omar Al Bashir during the military coup of 1989 and since then has remained a key member of the National Congress Party (NCP) and Bashir's close aide. It is believed that Al Bashir along with Taha and another close aide Nafi Ali Nafi hand pick candidates for the Government of National Unity (GNU). This seems to be indicative for the power structure within the NCP.

Recent reports however suggest that Taha has expressed willingness to negotiate with opposition political forces. However, the differences among the top brass of the NCP is largely holding back the initiative.

Taha was involved in a spat with Islamist movement leader Hasan El Turabi over government positions. His public dispute with NCP deputy chairman Nafi is an indicator of the cracks in the NCP's leadership.

Allegations

Taha has been accused by US intelligence agencies as being the brain behind the assassination attempt on Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Ethiopia in 1995.

Further he is seen to have played a major role in the Darfur crisis. Human rights groups have reported that he had closed links with janjaweed leader Musa Hilal. He is said to have been behind Hilal's release from prison in 2003.

When asked about the atrocities committed by the Sudanese regime and the government-backed militias in the country in an interview with BBC's Zeinab Badawi, Taha was quoted as saying, “I'm saying that the degree .. the numbers .. the figures are not correct. But I'm saying that in the case of war, there would be atrocities, there would be violations of human rights. There's no doubt about it, but what we are supposed to do is to have a serious and genuine commitment to support the government of Sudan to perform. These reports are reports of war and everywhere there is war, there could be atrocities. I'm not defending these atrocities.”

Following the arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague in 2008 against Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir, South Kordofan governor Ahmed Haroun and janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb, Taha has reportedly been instrumental in lobbying against their arrests.

 


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