[dehai-news] (AFP): Sudanese anxious over possible Beshir genocide charges

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sun Feb 15 2009 - 16:22:49 EST

Sudanese anxious over possible Beshir genocide charges


KHARTOUM (AFP) - Sudanese in Khartoum are awaiting possible International
Criminal Court (ICC) charges against President Omar al-Beshir, including
accusations of genocide in Darfur, with both fear and uncertainty.

Beshir "might be a criminal but we don't know what will happen if he's
charged," says computer technology graduate Abdel Rahman.

According to the United Nations, 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2
million have fled their homes since rebels in the western region rose up
against the Khartoum government in February 2003.

Sudan puts the death toll at 10,000.

"We're on the president's side because we think the Darfur conflict is
primarily a tribal matter that Westerners have blown out of proportion via
the media," says Ossama, sipping tea at an improvised cafe on a Khartoum

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that ICC judges in The Hague had
decided to issue an arrest warrant for Beshir for alleged genocide and war
crimes in Darfur.

Commenting on the report, an ICC spokeswoman told AFP: "At this moment,
there is no arrest warrant."

Many Sudanese believe that formal charges against Beshir -- which would be
the first ever issued against a sitting head of state -- would plunge the
country into chaos.

The authorities have predicted major demonstrations in Khartoum and around
the country if Beshir is charged, but that does not mean the people will
take to the streets in large numbers.

"It's not clear what's happening in Darfur because the local media are
controlled by the government," says Awad, a newspaper seller on the banks of
the Nile in downtown Khartoum.

Demonstrations in the wake of ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's
initial call for charges against Beshir last July brought barely 1,000
people out onto the streets of the capital.

Since then, Beshir has been deploying diplomatic contacts abroad aimed at
stymying potential charges and trying to present an image of unanimous
support for himself from the population as well as opposition parties if he
is charged.

"The regime will be even more intolerant towards any kind of opposition,"
said one Western diplomat, requesting anonymity and citing the case of
Beshir's former mentor and political opponent, Hassan al-Turabi.

Turabi was arrested in January after he said that Beshir was "politically
responsible" for the situation in Darfur and should hand himself over to the

"People are afraid to express themselves on this matter because the
intelligence services and the president's (National Congress) Party are very
powerful," says Sadig, a lawyer.

"Some people will be very happy to hear it if the president is charged by
the ICC" because they "suffer" under the current NCP-controlled system, says
Sadig's friend Ahmed, wearing a traditional Sudanese white gown.

"The country is divided in two, those who are with the government and those
who are not," says Younis, stirring his tea at the Arab market. "Me, for
instance, I support international justice."


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