Global Policy Forum

Omar Hassan al-Bashir Declared Winner of Sudan Election


By David Smith

April 26, 2010

Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, has been declared winner of the country's first multi-party elections in 24 years.

Bashir took 68% of a vote criticised as falling well below international standards. He remains the world's only sitting head of state wanted by the international criminal court (ICC) for war crimes.

In the country's semi-autonomous southern region there was an overwhelming endorsement of Salva Kiir, who is expected to lead the south to independence next year.

Kiir, rarely seen without his signature cowboy hat, won re-election as president of the south with 92.99% of the vote. He did not contest the national poll.

Bashir is expected to form a coalition with Kiir as the country heads toward a 2011 referendum that is likely to see the mostly Christian south break away from the mostly Muslim north to create Africa's newest state.

Bashir had hoped a win in legitimate polls would help him defy the ICC warrant, in which he is accused of ordering a campaign of murder, torture and rape in Sudan's Darfur region.

But the five-day elections were marred by widespread charges of fraud, with Kiir's Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) among the objectors, suggesting the new ruling coalition will be a fragile one.

Observers said the presidential, parliamentary and local elections failed to meet international standards but commended the high voter turnout. Bashir's two main challengers withdrew before the elections began, claiming that the process had already been rigged.

Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said: "Our concerns with these elections go beyond technical irregularities. Political oppression and human rights violations undermined the freedom and fairness of the vote all over Sudan.

"Regardless of the outcome, Bashir belongs in The Hague responding to the serious charges against him, for which victims have still seen no accountability."

Bashir and Kiir's current coalition government has had a rocky five years since the signing of a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war between north and south in the oil-rich nation.

The tensions bode ill for full implementation of the peace deal, including next year's referendum. Any major delay to that vote would be unacceptable to southerners, who most analysts believe have an overwhelming desire for secession.

But sceptics question whether southern Sudan and its capital, Juba, have the infrastructure to cope with becoming the world's newest country.

Bashir was an obscure army brigadier when he came to power in a bloodless coup in 1989 in an alliance with Islamists, deposing the country's last elected civilian government.

In his early years in power Bashir oversaw the transformation of Sudan into a radical Islamic pariah state that provided a refuge for the al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden.

When rebels took up arms in Darfur Bashir armed militias to crush the uprising, unleashing a wave of violence Washington still calls genocide - a charge dismissed by Khartoum.

Bashir responded to the ICC arrest warrant by expelling 13 major aid groups from Darfur. He has threatened to expel the rest but has not yet followed through on a step that would worsen the region's already dire humanitarian conditions.


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