On Thursday Omer Hasan Ahmed al Bashir (b. 1944) was formally re-instated in his position as President of the Republic. His inauguration before an audience of ‘elected’ law-makers amidst ‘democratic’ rituals culminating in a lengthy presidential speech aired live on national television and radio is to satisfy the symbolic of peaceful power transition from the self to the self in the name of the people.
Bashir, an obscure Sudan People’s Armed Forces (SPAF) brigadier on the eve of the NIF coup 30th June 1989, and a man whom Sudan’s urban Westernised elite has ever mocked and ridiculed, has survived recalcitrant threats and challenges to become Sudan’s longest ruling post-colonial master. He rose to power as an associate subordinate of Hasan al Turabi in 1989, sidelined the impressive Sorbonne scholar and dodgy orator to the isolation of grudge-soaked opposition complaint politics in 1999, accepted the odds of ‘peace’ and ‘democratic transformation’ in 2005 to manipulate stubbornly through the 6 year transitional period of the CPA heading next year to its zenith, the referendum on self-determination for Southern Sudan, choice being between an autonomous region of a united Sudan or an independent republic.
At the moment when Bashir’s international reputation as peace-maker and co-father of a re-negotiated multi-identity nation-state seemed secure he was faced with the consequences of the long soaring geo-political competition over the Chad Basin as it unfolded in Darfur, one in which the government of independent Sudan was immersed as a secondary player doing the dirty clean up jobs in the spirit of benevolent neglect towards Darfur inherited from the British administration of colonial Sudan combined with the supremacist vanity of the riverain elite. He chose the path he knew best in dealing with this unwelcome stroke of historical necessity, in NCPese a divine examination of faith from the Almighty, pacification. With the precedent of the murahilin in the war against the SPLA the job was off-sourced to allow the exhausted SPAF a long desired R&R in which it had already effectively slipped despite a generous feast of arms and logistics financed from the oil boom. The business of pacifying Darfur with tools of tribal design, janjaweed and peshmerga, in the age of globalisation convoluted to become an odious orgy of death and destruction tagged ‘genocide’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’. In March 2009 Bashir earned the title of first ever ruling head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and as of February 2010 genocide.
Wrapped in a burgeoning personality cult where he centres a patronage network of which the backbone is the unholy alliance between Sudan’s ever richer business sector and the military-security cabal of the NCP the 66 year old has much to go for him yet. Next year’s referendum and its consequences may prove to be the most trying of ‘divine examinations’ faced by his rule. The decisions and choices he makes over the next few months will ultimately settle the defining one line of his biography.