Sudan President, Wanted on War Crimes Charges, Seeks Third Term

Sudan-elections.pngIgnoring critics, 70-year-old Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, in power for 27 years since a June 1989 bloodless coup, is asking the country's estimated 19 million voters to keep him in power for a third term. The first round of elections is April 13, 2015.

Sudan is an Arab republic in the Nile Valley of North Africa, bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west and Libya to the northwest.

With an estimated population of 30 million, Sudan is the third largest country in Africa. The Nile River divides the country into eastern and western halves. Its predominant religion is Islam.

Fifteen candidates are seeking to dethrone Bashir. They have as much chance of doing that as Khartoum, the country's capital, has in sending a man or woman to the moon.

There are 90 recognized political parties in the Sudan's 18 states. However, only 23 are seeking the presidency and legislative seats. If you can believe it, a total 8,748 persons are running for seats in the National Assembly and the legislative councils.

Curiously, none of the major political parties, the Umma and the Democratic Unionist party (DUP), is putting forward presidential candidates.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has issued an arrest warrant for Bashir on charges that he orchestrated atrocities in Darfur where 10,000 persons were allegedly slaughtered on Bashir's orders. He emphatically denies the charges.

At least 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and two million people forced to flee their homes since rebels first rose up against the Khartoum government in 2003, according to a previous United Nations report.

Bashir, the only sitting head of state in Africa wanted for alleged war crimes, was re-elected as both leader and presidential candidate of the National Congress Party (NCP) at a recent party convention.  Bashir had been chosen out of five candidates.

The 2015 elections for the presidency and national and state parliaments will be only the second since the 1989 coup that brought Bashir to power.

The only known candidate facing Bashir is Professor Fatima Abdul Mahmud, an experienced politician. But her hands are just as unclean as Bashir's.  In the 2010 elections, she was a candidate for the Sudanese Socialist Union, a party formed by late president Ja'afar Mohamed Nimeiri who ruled from 1969 to 1985.

Mahmud promoted the introduction of the harsh September 1983 Islamic Sharia laws. Those laws called for flogging and amputation of limbs for persons arrested in alleged theft cases. 

Another female candidate, al Taazi, a former police and security officer, is also expected to be easily brushed away by Bashir.

Bashir's National Congress Party controls the country's key institutions, including the army, the security and the economy. Because of that scenario and the serious chaos marring the change of power in neighboring Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, voters could be persuaded to keep Bashir in power, according to international political observers.

Despite painful economic, trade and technology sanctions by the United States since 1997, and a civil strife in Darfur since 2003, Bashir has managed to form a strong alliance with China and Russia.

Although the European Union has so far shown little enthusiasm to fund or send observers to the April elections, the African Union, the Arab league and the African Centre for Human Rights are among the regional organizations that Bashir has approved for monitoring the voting.

Bashir's associates maintain they want the voting atmosphere to be cordial, fair and legal. Oh, sure. With machine guns posted at each voting booth, you can be certain it will be anything but a cordial affair as Bashir sails into power for another four years at least.

And that's the way it is at this moment.

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