Omar al-Bashir: A president for life?

Omar al-Bashir: A president for life?
Omar al-Bashir has spent 25 years in power in Sudan and, despite wars, economic slumps and meddling in foreign countries, looks set to continue in his position for at least another five.
3 min read
30 October, 2014
Al-Bashir has been a controversial leader [AFP]

Omar al-Bashir has spent a quarter of a century in the presidency of Sudan.

He faces no real competition in elections planned for next year. All opposition parties plan a boycott - even those who agreed to a process of national dialogue in January, including the Reform Now movement under Ghazi Salaheddin, and the Popular Congress Party under Hasan al-Turabi.

He has presided over wars, mass unemployment, poverty and is an international pariah. Yet he is planning another five years in power.

Bashir was a colonel in the army before he was installed as the president of a republic after the military coup of 1989.

But despite his long term as president, Bashir has attracted derision both inside and outside Sudan. He became the first serving head of state to be issued with an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court following alleged war crimes Sudanese forces are believed to have committed in the western region of Darfur on his watch.

He suffers no disobedience. In his first few years of power, 28 officers were executed for supposedly planning a coup. The families still do not know where they are buried.

His reign has been marked by division and instability: The outrages of Darfur, troubles in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile provinces, not to mention the East Sudan war. Despite these threats, he has clung to power in Khartoum.

War and peace

ashir has signed nearly a dozen peace agreements, the most important of which was the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Khartoum and the Sudanese Popular Liberation Movement (SPLM), which brought an end to 21 years of civil war in the south and the creation of South Sudan in 2011. 

He also signed a number of peace deals in Darfur, the most notable being the Abuja agreement with the Sudan Liberation Movement. However, the agreements collapsed, bringing the country back to war.

Bashir has not only presided over war and coups in Sudan. Khartoum under his rule
directly helped Idriss Deby take over in Chad, brought Isaias Afwerki to the presidency of Eritrea, and the helped the late Meles Zenawi into power in Ethiopia.

There is almost universal estrangement from Western countries, particularly the US, which has imposed economic sanctions and classed Khartoum as a sponsor of terrorism.
 Osama bin Laden enjoyed residency in Sudan's capital in the 1990s.

Relations between Khartoum and Cairo have also worsened, especially after Sudan was accused of plotting the assassination of then President Hosni Mubarak in the early 1990s.

Testing times

Bashir has pursued a federal government policy that led to the emergence of regional and ethnic blocs in the country.

Bashir presided over an oil boom, but
ignored other areas of industry, particularly agriculture, which employs some 80 percent of the population. A deterioration of this industry has led to increased poverty in Sudan.

Looking back at his first days in power, Bashir told al-Watan al-Arabi magazine that Sudan had changed for the better, particularly after the state of ruin he inherited.

"When we took over power and held the first meeting to identify available resources, the treasury was empty, there was no oil," he said.

"Flour for a few days only, and cars waited for several days to be filled with petrol," he said. "Families slept in bakeries to get bread. There was nothing." 

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.