Sudan’s Al Bashir sworn in, hopes to ‘re-open dialogue with the West’
Sudan’s president since a quarter of a century, Omar Al Bashir, was sworn in as Head of State for another five year-term on Tuesday. In his inauguration speech, he said that he will be a “president for all”, and intends to re-open dialogue with the West.
Al Bashir (71) took the oath at the National Parliament in Omdurman, attended by a few African and Arab leaders, as many of them declined to come.
He won 94 percent of the votes in the national election in April, which was boycotted by the majority of the opposition parties. According to the opposition, the voter turnout was about 15 percent, while the National Election Commission announced after the election that 36 to 38 percent of the voters had cast their votes.
According to the USA, member of the Sudan Troika, together with the UK and Norway, the outcome of the April election was not “a credible expression of the will” of the Sudanese, given the far-going restrictions on political rights and freedoms. The EU and Canada have also criticised the conduct of the election.
The opposition forces commented in a joint statement that they would not recognise the electoral results, and called on the Sudanese to stage a nationwide uprising to overthrow Al Bashir’s regime.
‘President for all’
Speaking at the start of his new presidential term, Al Bashir appealed for national unity. "I will be, God willing, a president for all. There is no difference between those who voted for us, and those who did not, between those who participated, and those who boycotted (the election),”he said.
He urged the Sudanese opposition parties to join the National Dialogue, which “will restart the coming days”. He renewed his offer to issue a general amnesty for the leaders of the rebel movements who “truly desire to participate in the dialogue”.
Dialogue with the West
Al Bashir, surprisingly, also expressed his willingness to re-open dialogue with western nations. “Sudan will seek, God willing, and with an open heart, to continue dialogue with western countries, so that the relations will return to normal.”
Opposition leaders, however, consider the continued rule of Omar Al Bashir a “disaster”. They point to the ongoing wars in Darfur, South Kordofan, and the Blue Nile, and crackdowns on the media, civil society, and the opposition.
The Sudanese president was indicted by the international Criminal Court (ICC) on 4 March 2009, for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur. The ICC issued a second arrest warrant for Al Bashir on 12 July 2010, for three counts of genocide.
Furthermore, the opposition forces accuse Al Bashir’s regime of exacerbating Sudan's isolation from global financial and political institutions, which has led, they say, to the bankruptcy of the country.
In October last year, US president Barack Obama extended its sanctions on Sudan, imposed in 1997, for another year, saying that Khartoum continues to pose an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to the national security and foreign policy of his country.
In March this year, Sudan made a major shift in its foreign policy, by departing from its longstanding strategic alliance with Iran, and opting instead to join the Saudi Arabia led coalition against the Shiite rebels in Yemen.
Sudan hoped that the shift will ensure “new cash” from the oil-rich countries, to help out the country’s battered economy.
Days before his inauguration, Al Bashir paid visits to Saudi Arabia and Qatar to invite its leaders to the ceremony, but they did not come. Egypt's President Abdelfattah El Sisi, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, did attend.
On Monday, a day before Al Bashir’s swearing in, he relieved the military chief of staff, and various other senior army officers.
According to the spokesman of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), Col. El Sawarmi Khaled Saad, the changes are part of the SAF “annual routine work”.
The Minister of Defence, Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, thanked the retirees for their “efforts and outstanding performance”, wishing the new chief of staff every success in the upcoming period.
(Sources: ABC News, Reuters, Sudan Tribune)
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