So if it wasn’t obvious by the fact that the people of Sudan wanted him gone, Omar Al-Bashir was not a great guy. Firstly, Omar Al-Bashir has been the president of Sudan for the past 30 years, which, until 2011, was Africa’s largest country. Bashir was born in 1944 in Northern Sudan, which was then still part of the Egyptian Kingdom. His career has been defined by war. He joined the Egyptian army, rising through the ranks, and fought in the 1973 war against Israel. He became a military commander before establishing himself as the President. He took power in 1989 in a coup, holding power for 30 years before being toppled by the military this year. He is the last of the Arab world’s long-term dictators.
To give a bit of context on Sudan: when Bashir seized power in 1989 Sudan was in the midst of a 21-year civil war between north and south. Although Bashir’s government signed a deal to end the conflict in 2005, another conflict was breaking in the western region of Darfur. Here Bashir was accused by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of organizing war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was then issued an international arrest warrant by the ICC. Despite this, he still won consecutive elections in 2010 and 2015. His arrest warrant resulted in an international travel ban, but he still made diplomatic visits to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa.
His overall goal was for a unified Sudan, but upon signing a deal to end the conflict between the north and south, he also agreed for a referendum on secession for South Sudan. In January 2011 99% of South Sudanese people voted in favour of separation. 6 months later South Sudan declared its independence. Al-Bashir agreed to let South Sudan go, but his attitude to Darfur has been characterised by belligerence. Darfur has seen conflict since 2003 when rebels took up arms at alleged government discrimination.
For some time during Al-Bashir’s rule, there was ‘pockets full of dollars’. This was mostly due to Sudan being an oil-rich country. And oil tends to mean money, well, that and the interest of a lot of foreign powers. This often doesn’t end well, and Iraq is a prime example for that… unless you believe the United States transparent cover up for invading. Anyway back to Sudan – In this time controls were lifted and the telecommunications system was revolutionised. But since the succession of the South, the economy struggled. When the South separated it took ¾ of the country’s oil along with it. Despite Al-Bashir claiming that he would not stand in the way of South Sudan’s independence, tension has been rising since the region separated.
The North is the part of Sudan where unrest falls, as the South is officially independent, with its capital being Juba. Whilst north Sudan’s capital is Khartoum. Essentially, remaining tensions between the North and South, which greatly impacted the economy of the North, have only added to the unrest and have made the lives of ordinary Sudanese people even tougher than before.
From this map you can see how the country was split.
So just to prove my opening statement, here are the accusations against Omar Al-Bashir
- Killing members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups
- Causing these groups serious bodily or mental harm
- Inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about these groups’ physical destruction
Crimes against humanity
- Forcible transfer
- Attacks on civilians in Darfur
- Pillaging towns and villages
In March 2009 the ICC indicted Al-Bashir on 5 accounts of crimes against humanity and 2 war crimes.
So the conclusions from this are as followed:
- Anyone who has had that many ICC accounts of crimes against humanity and war crimes is not a great guy
- It is therefore unsurprising that there were protests to want him gone
- Despite ending the official conflict between the South and North, tensions remain
- This separation led to a decline in the economy, which meant the quality of life was greatly weakened in the North.
On a closing note, labeling Omar Al-Bashir as ‘not a great guy’ is a pretty big understatement. I think it is clear from his charges from the ICC that he was a despicable leader. The people of Sudan want the same rights that we in the U.K. take for granted. This is not a punishable offence.