May 26, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – The head of the Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and incumbent President Omer Hassan al-Bashir, will be sworn in on Thursday for a new five-years term amid limited regional and international participation in the ceremony.
So far only the leaders of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Chad, Djibouti, Central African Republic, Malawi, and Mauritania have either arrived or confirmed attendance.
The Libyan Muammar Gaddafi was a notable absence despite earlier assertions by Sudan that he will be present in his capacity as the rotating president of the Arab League. Also the Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa has dispatched his deputy because of a reportedly scheduling conflict.
Egypt a strong ally and neighbor of Sudan sent its defense minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi rather than the president or prime minister.
Sudan official news agency (SUNA) quoted foreign ministry spokesperson as saying that they only extended invitation to neighboring countries only.
Last year Bashir earned his status as the first sitting head of state charged for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The indictment has hampered his travel and limited his contacts with Western officials.
ICC judges told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that Sudan was protecting ICC suspects rather than arresting them, a move aimed at increasing pressure on Khartoum.
As well as Bashir, former state minister of humanitarian affairs Ahmed Haroun and a militia leader known as Ali Kushayb face ICC arrest warrants.
The United Nations is sending its top two diplomats in the country, despite calls from rights groups worldwide. On Tuesday the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon defended the decision saying it is done for operational reasons to support a “critical mission”.
“This is not more than that. What they are doing is not more than that, they are doing exactly within the framework of their mandate” the top U.N. official said.
The Italian news agency (AKI) quoting unnamed sources said that the European Union (EU) will be present at the inauguration “on a local level” and “at the lowest representation which will be a clear reflection of the European position towards Bashir”.
The EU supports efforts by the ICC to bring Bashir to justice but is also keen to maintain dialogue to ensure the 2011 referendum in South Sudan is conducted peacefully which is also similar to the U.S. position on the matter.
The southern vote on independence is set for Jan. 9, 2011 and is a key focus of the international community, which wants to avoid a return to bloodshed and is keen for the former foes to agree on issues like the north-south border, along which much of Sudan’s oil wealth lies.
Last week the U.S. based Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized EU inclination towards sending a delegation to the ceremony.
“The EU has a common position in support of the ICC, and the EU has regularly denounced Sudan’s failure to cooperate with the ICC’s investigations and to execute pending arrest warrants” said Elise Keppler, International Justice Program senior counsel at Human Rights Watch.
“The EU can’t have it both ways,” Keppler said. “It should be consistent in its efforts to bring justice for crimes committed in Darfur.”
Reuters said that Britain and the United States will not even send their heads of missions, who are both out of the country. They will follow protocol and send diplomatic representation to the ceremony, the embassies said.
The ceremony before parliament on Thursday follows Bashir’s election one month ago with 68 percent of the vote. The poll was marred by opposition boycotts and allegations of widespread fraud.
Bashir’s party and allies also won around 95 percent of parliamentary seats in the north, giving them more than the required two-thirds majority to make changes to the constitution.
The former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) won most of the southern seats, around 20 percent of the total parliament. South Sudan President and SPLM leader Salva Kiir is in talks to form a government with Bashir.
Bashir is the longest serving Sudanese leader since taking power in an Islamic-military bloodless coup in 1989. But he has overseen peace deals in the south and east as well as a short-lived accord in Darfur.
DARFUR REBELS CALL FOR BOYCOTTING INAUGRATION
The two major Darfur rebel groups today decried U.N. and E.U. participation in Bashir’s inauguration ceremony.
“This amounts to legitimization of Bashir’s farce elections and an endorsement of the acts of killing and genocide he committed all these years against the people of Darfur and documented by the whole world” said Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur leader of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) from Paris.
“We want the international community to support the work of the ICC and its prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Turning a blind eye to justice for short term political gains will not bring peace to the country” Al-Nur added.
“We have seen this strategy only resulted in more bombardment and murder of civilians in Darfur because there were no consequences for that and Bashir and others believed they could get away with it,” the rebel chief said.
The official spokesperson of Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) Ahmed Hussein Adam said international participation is a “slap on the face to the people of Sudan who reject president Bashir and a breach of the moral values of the United Nations”.
He also accused the international community of appeasing Khartoum to secure a smooth transition to the 2011 referendum.
“This encouraged Khartoum to continue destruction in Darfur, tighten grip on security and implement draconian measures to restrict political association, freedom of expression and press freedom as we have seen lately” Adam said.
“In fact attending [Bashir’s] inauguration encourages him not to even carry out the referendum” he added.
All attempts to iron a peace deal in Darfur have failed and a new wave of violence has hit the region reflecting the collapse of Qatari sponsored peace talks this year.