Bashir's expected re-election 'assisted' by ICC

Khartoum- Sudan (PANA) -- The International Criminal Court (ICC) may have inadver tently played a critical role in the widely expected re-election of Sudanese Pre s ident Omar Hassan Ahmed el-Bashir in the country's recently concluded elections t hat also attracted 11 other contestants.
The 'rogue president' image carved of Bashir by the ICC chief Prosecutor Luis Mo reno-Ocampo, Sudanese fiercely-patriotic voters say, was enough to prop the lead e râ?s fortunes that had until two years ago began to wane after 21 years in power .
Inside and outside Sudanâ?s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), there is a co nvergence of opinion that the ICC warrants of arrest hanging over Bashir had gal v anized support ahead of the 10-15 April polls.
When PANA asked Dr Nafle Ali Nafle whether it was preposterous for the Sudanese to invest hope in Bashir given the ICC indictment he faces, the abrasive former University of Khartoum lecturer said The Hague-based court had turned the political equation in the incumbentâ?s favour.
â?Even to the uneducated Sudanese, the ICC indictment is a new means of Western powers re-colonising Africa.
Looked at in the context of historical injustices the British and the Americans have meted out on Africa, the indictment is null a nd void.
The people to be indicted are former US President George W.
Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair,â? Nafle said.
Bashir is wanted by the ICC for genocide-related crimes and gross human rights v iolation in western Darfur province that slipped into civil conflict in 2003, a c onflict that has claimed over 300,000 and displaced nearly two million others.
In his investigations, the ICC Chief Prosecutor concluded that Sudanâ?s preside nt bears the greatest responsibility for the crimes allegedly committed by the a r my.
The warrants have restricted the former military manâ?s movements around the wo rld.
â?ICC lacks the moral or legal basis to justify the indictment of African presi dents.
The Kenyan, Rwandan and Sudanese leaders it is pursuing are part of the W e stern mantra to embarrass Africans.
The expected re-election of Bashir demonstrates th e people of Sudan have faith in their leader,â? Nafle said.
The ICC conclusions run counter to the sentiments of the man in the streets in K hartoum.
In conversations with taxi drivers and petty traders on Khartoum street s , the perception of Bashir being at the pulse of national politics and aspirations becomes apparent.
A taxi driver, Mr Ahmed Mohammed Abdurrhman, summed up the perceptions when he s aid: â?Sudanâ?s economic and social development record is directly linked to Bashir.
The good roads you are seeing in Khartoum, the booming business and incr eased school enrollment became a reality during the reign of Bashir.
The only other leader that would have matched this record would have been Jaf'aâ?ar Nime iry.
â? Bashir is a political student of Nimeiry, who died in exile in Egypt two years a go and was accorded state funeral by the Khartoum regime.
The late president imp o sed Islamic sharia in 1983, widely seen as the major catalyst for a 22-year-long war between the south and the north.
It is on this background that his image as a leader is shaped.
However, Abdurrhman thinks otherwise.
To him, the common denominator in past Sud anese governmentâ?s adjudged rogue and terrorist-inclined is former attorney-gen eral (under Nimeiry) and head of cabinet (under Bashir), Dr Hassan al-Tourabi.
Tourab i was presidential candidate in this yearâ?s election on the platform of the Nat ional Islamist Front (NIF).
â?Tourabi is the cause of the war with the south and conflict in Darfur and he forced the government (in 1983) to adopt sharia.
After Bashir sacked him in 199 9 , things have been improving and even our relations with neighboring countries have impro ved,â? says Abdurrhman.
He says after Bashir tossed the fierce Islamist leader o ut, the government moved to make cost of healthcare and education cheaper.
Ironically, al-Tourabi has been receiving favourble reviews in the Western count ries, which accuse Bashir of jingoism.
The taxi manâ?s assessment of political trends in Africaâ?s largest nation has echoed in the opposition ranks.
The Umma party presidential candidate, Dr El-S a diq Elhadi el-Mahdi, is of the opinion that the voters were wary of the unknown.
In an exclusive interview with PANA at his house in Omdurman (Northern Khartoum state) el-Mahdi, a great grandson of Imam Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi who led a revolution against the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1871, said the ICC indictment s had made Bashir a hero of the common man.
â?The fear of the unknown and Bashir projection of himself as a peopleâ?s pres ident swayed the vote in his favour.
Elitism in opposition and our failure to sh a pe our agenda to meet peopleâ?s needs provided good fodder for NCP to paint us as puppets of the West,â? said el-Mahdi, whose father Saddiq al-Mahdi was assassinated by Nime iry in 1970.
In Sudan, the West - led by United States - and Europe symbolize the deprivation of the poor while Bashir is the rallying point of the poor.
The younger el-Mahdi, an assistant professor in medicine at the University of Kh artoum and a senior surgeon at the Omdurman Hospital, concurs with the general s e ntiment that the candidature of the likes of al-Tourabi (his brother in-law) was a handi cap to the opposition.
â?There were irregularities yes.
However, a number of us had baggage from the p ast that played havoc on our bid to unseat Bashir.
All factors considered, it wo u ld be wrong to judge the polls based on virtual Sudan.
In the real Sudan, Bashir won fairly.
The polls were free and fair, the logistical and technical challenges notwithst a nding,â? said the scholar.
Except for a few political parties that coalesce under the banner of Juba Allian ce that is threatening to organize countrywide demonstrations to force NCP out o f power, majority of the parties that fielded presidential candidates have conceded defea t even before the final results are announced.
With Bashir's victory looming, Dr Ahmed Badawi, a Khartoum-based British public relations consultant, said the onus was now on Western leaders to respect the wi l l of the local people or risk plunging Sudan into an abyss of chaos through persisten t haranguing of the Khartoum regime.
â?The outcome reflects the will of the people.
Opposition may have made the ele ction a no-contest by pulling out, but that does not make Bashir election illegi t imate.
If indeed there was significant opposition support it would have reflected throu gh voter apathy.
Instead, the voter turnout astounded even the most ardent criti c s of Bashir,â? says Badawi.
Looking ahead to the future, senior presidential adviser Ibrahim Dagash said the onus was on the next Bashir administration to spruce up Sudanâ?s image abroad.
â?We are turning a new chapter.
We are not going to respond to external aggress ion in the manner we have done in the past.
We are going to engage our adversari e s diplomatically.
That's why we invited many foreign observers to monitor the poll s.
We have nothing to hide,â? said Dagash, a former spokesman of the defunct Org anisation of African Unity (OAU).

26 april 2010 13:57:00

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