From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Mon Feb 02 2009 - 08:50:52 EST
Asharq Al-Awsat Talks to President Omar al-Bashir
By Bosaina Abdul Rahman in Khartoum
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Mr. President, is there anything new in the official
position with expectations that the ICC will issue a decision to arrest your
Excellency at any moment?
[Al-Bashir] This issue is not about justice but is a political issue. Sudan
rejects the ICC because we are not members in it, and consequently it has no
jurisdiction on Sudan. By its nature, it complements the national judiciary
and is not a substitute for it, especially since we are a sovereign,
independent State with a competent judiciary body whose judges are capable
and have established testimony to their experience, knowledge, and
capability outside and inside the country.
>From another angle, what about the issues seen internationally, led by what
is going on in Gaza? This is not a fabricated issue. The world is a witness
to it. Yet, an official says the ICC has no role in this on the grounds that
Israel is not an ICC member.
As for us, we have left behind our backs the affair of this court and what
it claims. We sum it all up in one sentence, namely that what is taking
place in this connection is "a mosquito in the ear of an elephant".
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Mr. President, there are pressures on the partisan
political leaderships to announce their position on the ICC. How can they be
able to do so when they see what happened to Dr Hassan al-Turabi who has
been arrested and is still in prison because he stated that you must give
[Al-Bashir] We do not sequester anybody in announcing their position on any
public issue. We go by the guidance of the constitution and the law. You see
the people and the political parties holding seminars and conferences that
are broadcast even by the governmental media outlets. But when there is
plotting and communication with suspect quarters, and when there are
attempts to split national ranks that have converged on one word, namely
rejection of all attempts to undermine the sovereignty and independence of
the country, then the necessary legal procedures must be initiated in the
case of all those against whom reasonable evidence is available. No one is
bigger than the law.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you not believe that the country, both the government
and the people, have since Ocampo's appearance become as if they are
hostages, between those who reject the decision [arrest warrant] and those
who support it. In all events, there is no talk about anything else.
[Al-Bashir] Those who follow Sudanese affairs must notice easily that life
in our country is going on its normal course. There are always more
services, achievements, investments, rehabilitation, and establishment for
the foundations of comprehensive and sustainable development. Perhaps the
inauguration of the Merowe electricity station--the time for its operation
has come after enormous work--provides shining proof that we are not
hostages to any suspect movements. Actually the opposite is true, for plots
only increase our strength and determination to go forward with ensuring
security and prosperity for our country and our citizens.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about talk about thought being given to an internal
coup, and about insurrections because of thoughts of removing your
Excellency to search for a way out? What are the worst scenarios, in your
[Al-Bashir] First, the talk about a coup process inside the authority or a
split in the ranks of the NCP is merely wishful thinking and organized
rumors propagated by the opposition. The reaction of the street and its
support is very clear. This is something that is 100 per cent positive.
We have no fear of a coup or an insurrection. Throughout the era of Al-Ingaz
[Salvation] (June 1989), we have gone through worse conditions and heavier
pressures and blockade. The attempts are still continuing, and the campaigns
against Sudan go on. There is organized action to prevent investments in
Sudan, yet we are among the countries that receive the most investments.
The sustained pressures apparently produce positive results for us. To avoid
a petroleum embargo, we extracted our petroleum. We also succeeded in
manufacturing our weapons and equipment. This is what the world witnessed in
the military parade on the First of January celebrations of our Independence
Day celebrations. We adapt to the pressures and they become akin to
incentives for us.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] To what extent do you count on popular support internally,
under the shadow of global precedents proving that popular support becomes
fragmented under heavy pressures, temptations, and intimidation?
[Al-Bashir] Support is a grace from Allah that He grants to whomever he
wishes, and Allah has Great Grace. The fusion of the people with their
leadership is an accolade of honor our proud people have bestowed on us. I
personally feel the love of this honorable people, just as I felt it after
the emergence of the plot by those who manipulate the ICC on the surface of
the events. I may remind that our people and our country have their unique
advantage; they cannot be penetrated like other countries have been
penetrated. We are one people who have faith and who wage jihad for the sake
of preserving their sovereignty and independence. The President of the
Republic is but a symbol of this sovereignty and independence.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are many question marks about the position of your
partner in government, the SPLM, toward the ICC, especially the position of
its leader, First-Vice President Mr. Salva Kiir Mayardit--let alone the
position of Mr. Mani Arkoi Minawi, the senior presidential assistant and
head of the Sudan Liberation Movement. How safe do you feel with the two
Vice-Presidents [Mayardit and Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha] and their mass
[Al-Bashir] The SPLM is an integral partner and we are in the same boat.
Perhaps the position of the movement and its chief, the First
Vice-President, is clear and announced. It does not require much elucidation
from us, but there are attempts to fish in murky water and these are part of
the desperate attempts to fragment the position of our country. We are fully
committed to what the Constitution stipulates. We shall show the world how
our country leads the convoy of civilization by making great pledges and
being true to them. The first of these is peaceful alternation on power,
repelling injustices, and the rule of the law.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Mr. President, no matter how positions move apart or
converge, the greater attention continues to be on the need to provide an
effective solution to the problem of Darfur and similar provinces,
especially since some of them witnesses tensions going to the extent of
infighting and combat?
[Al-Bashir] We have affirmed and still affirm that dialogue is the only
means of solving the Darfur problem and any other problems. The People of
Sudan conference on solving the Darfur problem, to which we invited all
political hues, conducted an extensive dialogue and came out with a group of
recommendations. We drafted a list from these recommendations which is now
in actual implementation. We take this opportunity to affirm our support to
the Arab-African Initiative under the leadership of the State of Qatar and
any other initiative that supports a peaceful solution to this problem that
we have spared no effort to solve. This is seen in the Abuja Agreement on
Darfur peace and numerous initiatives, including the movement forward with
the development of the province.
The basis of the Darfur problem is the scarcity of resources and the
weakness of services, despite what we have provided. We shall proceed apace
in pursuing a peaceful solution and providing more services. Darfur will be
integrated with the national electricity network. There are many provinces
that suffer like Darfur. Perhaps the Northern State, which will provide
electricity to all of Sudan, is one of the provinces that provide [probably
typographical mistake for 'receive'] the least services and development.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Mr. President, returnees to the country after some absence
notice more urbanization and development projects. But they soon notice and
hear lots of complaints about social gaps and rampant corruption; about what
the lucky ones enjoy in the way of favors and privileges?
[Al-Bashir] Urban progress does not come alone. It is a measure of overall
progress and development. The owners of these buildings are the sons of
those people, and their wealth must spill over to their relatives and other
workers. This is a blessing from Allah on our country which will, with
Allah's permission, come out of the circle of poverty after the availability
of roads and energy. The Merowe Dam will be a barrier between us and
poverty. There is also the agricultural renaissance and decent housing for
every citizen--actually the [the goal of a] computer in every house--in
addition to the educational revolution, heavy industrialization, and
As for talk about corruption and nepotism, this is rejected talk. Our
country is open, and the justice and judiciary systems allow any complainant
to come forward with his case to the courts. As for propagating rumors and
smear campaigns without proof, this is an injustice and defamation of
people's reputations without evidence. This kind of talk does not find
attentive ears with us.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some people believe that the population census will create
deep differences among the partners in government. Are you annoyed at the
delay in announcing its results, especially as the date of the elections and
their validity approaches?
[Al-Bashir] The census is a painstaking and complicated technical process.
It needs to take its time. We are assured of its results because we followed
the scientific criteria and the transparency with which it was conducted, as
well as the monitoring imposed on all its phases through specialized
regional and international organizations. So there is no room for
auctioneering here. Our country is open to all those who seek the truth and
wish to stand on the ground of reality to convey with integrity the events
going on in the country.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your comment on the emergence of a rival for you
in the coming presidential elections, namely Dr Abdullah Ali Ibrahim? What
advice do you offer him on the basis of your experience?
[Al-Bashir] There are numerous experiences. I for instance entered the last
elections and had many competitors. There is nothing to prevent any
qualified person who meets the criteria drafted and defined by the elections
committee from entering the presidential elections. My felicitations to Dr
Abdullah Ali Ibrahim--an academic activist, political thinker, and popular
writer--as he advances with all courage to enter the presidential elections.
The masses have the right of choice.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There is a complaint that there is almost a division in
roles. The President makes a speech and extends his hand to everybody, but
hard-liners come after him to erase what he said in a clear narrowing of the
area for differences and pluralism in the country?
[Al-Bashir] We are a State of institutions and we do not manage our problems
through the media. There is no blame on anybody who makes a statement that
represents his opinion on some position. The grounds on which every position
stands are what counts.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There has been lots of talk that the new American
President is a new face for an old coin. Are you optimistic about any
changes he might introduce?
[Al-Bashir] President Obama has announced political changes that we welcome.
We are open toward the changes he may introduce toward Sudan, and we shall
go along with them.
Former President George Bush began his era by a positive policy toward
Sudan. He played a fundamental role in reaching the [Naivasha] peace
agreement. Then he turned around and changed his course. To return to the
present, if President Obama continues in his positive changes and if we felt
a change, then we are ready for all the changes he will introduce toward the
Islamic world and toward us.
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