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Sudan‘s president, Omar al-Bashir, was sworn in today for another five-year term – after an election marred by boycotts and fraud allegations – to become the only head of state re-elected while facing an international arrest warrant for war crimes.
Bashir is sought by the international criminal court in The Hague for allegedly masterminding atrocities in Darfur. Sudan does not recognise the tribunal and has refused to co-operate with it.
The swearing-in ceremony in Khartoum came a day after the ICC reported Sudan to the UN security council for refusing to arrest two other Sudanese officials – a government minister and a militia leader. The two are also suspected of war crimes in Darfur, where fighting between government and rebel forces killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.7 million.
Bashir, who came to power in a military coup 21 years ago, won a comfortable majority in the April elections, winning 68% of the vote. His victory was widely expected after his most credible challengers pulled out of the race to protest alleged fraud.
But the win is unlikely to put to rest questions about his international standing or ease Sudan’s isolation. Bashir cannot travel freely because he risks being arrested in countries that recognise the ICC.
Last month’s balloting was Sudan’s first multiparty presidential, parliamentary and local elections in 24 years. It was also a requirement of a 2005 peace deal that ended a 21-year civil war between the predominantly Arab and Muslim north and rebels in the Christian-animist south.
The fighting left 2 million people dead and many more displaced. The Darfur conflict, which began in 2003, is unrelated to that war.
The April elections also opened the way for a 2011 referendum in which the south will decide whether it wants to secede.
Arab satellite channels broadcast segments from the ceremony today, with the presidents of Chad, Eritrea, Djibouti and the Central African Republic attending, along with the Egyptian defence minister. Human rights groups have urged nations to boycott the event to underscore their commitment to international justice.
Yesterday, ICC judges said in a report that Sudan had refused to hand over humanitarian affairs minister Ahmed Harun and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb. The court ordered their arrest in 2007 on a total of 51 charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The report said it was now up to the security council to take appropriate action