November 6, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir underwent a “minor and successful” medical operation in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyad on Tuesday, state media has reported as growing speculations about his health saw one MP urging the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to name a successor.
- Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir attends the inauguration of the new African Union (AU) Building in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, January 28, 2012 (REUTERS)
Official media announced on Monday that Al-Bashir flew to Riyad to receive a “medical checkup” and meet with senior Saudi officials including King King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
But there was no mention of the nature of the medical checkup or, more importantly, any planned operation until Sudan state radio reported on Tuesday that the 68-year-old ruler had undergone a “minor and successful” operation there but without giving further details.
The spokesperson of the presidency of the republic, Imad Said Ahmad, told Sudan’s official news agency (SUNA) that Al-Bashir has “recovered” and will check out of the hospital where the operation was conducted in few hours.
“We bring to our citizens the good news about the healing and recovery God has bestowed upon the president of the republic” he said.
Speculations about the health of the Sudanese president became more than just rumors after the government admitted in August that he underwent a surgery on his vocal chords in Qatar.
Presidential spokesperson Imad Said Ahmad, however, described the surgery as “minor” and insisted that his boss was enjoying “good health”
Official sources told Sudan Tribune on condition of anonymity that the operation was “not anticipated” and was rather “necessitated” by the results of the tests he took.
They however declined to divulge details about the type of the operation and said that the president will leave the hospital today and return to the country within five days.
The facts that Al-Bashir underwent two operations in the space of four months and that the issue of his health situation is being shrouded in secrecy have fueled rumors across the Sudanese street and cyberspace that he is infected with a terminal disease.
Some Sudanese bloggers and websites reported rumors that tissue samples taken from Al-Bashir’s throat in Saudi Arabia were sent to Germany for further tests. Another rumor has it that he has been diagnosed with throat cancer.
The rumors are further fueled by the fact that since August, the time of his first operation, he has noticeably made few appearances and refrained from his habit of giving long and loudly-uttered public speeches.
It was also observed that Al-Bashir failed to address dozens of supporters who gathered in front of the council of ministers in Khartoum two weeks ago to rally against the alleged Israeli attack on Al-Yarmook military factory. He merely waved his hand and let his deputy Vice-President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha address the crowd instead.
Meanwhile, deputy speaker of the Sudanese parliament Hagou Gasm Al-Said stoked the controversy around the issue when he told reporters in the capital Khartoum on Tuesday that the NCP should immediately begin preparations to name a successor for Al-Bashir. He called on his party to present the suitable alternative who can win the trust of the people.
But Hagou also added that the ailment from which Al-Bashir is suffering is “normal” and does not merit the amount of rumors surrounding it.
The NCP recently said it is yet to discuss the issue of who will succeed Al-Bashir should he steps down as promised at the end of his current term in 2015. The party also denied media reports that Taha has been nominated to succeed Al-Bashir.
Earlier on Monday, Sudan’s state minister at the presidency of the republic, Amin Hassan Omer, suggested in an interview with the London-based newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat that the issue of Al-Bashir health is being blown out of proportion.
Omer blamed the presidency of the republic for the spread of rumors about Al-Bashir’s health because it did not take the initiative to report the issue from the beginning. According to the minister, Al-Bashir is only suffering from “persistent inflammations” in his throat and that the doctors enjoined a reduction in the amount of public speeches.
He, however, said that Al-Bashir health situation suffered a setback because he did not abide by the doctors’ orders to reduce public speeches.
But the Media counsellor at the Sudanese embassy in London, Khalid al-Mubarak, told Sudan Tribune on Monday that there has been “full transparency” about Bashir’s trip, which was discussed on Sudan TV.
"The president looked fit until he left. He did not cancel a single appointment and is planning a visit to Juba to consolidate relations," al-Mubarak said.
He also said that the president “neither smokes nor drinks [alcohol]”
Al-Bashir has been ruling Sudan since taking power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989. In 2009 he became the first sitting head of state to be issued with an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Darfur conflict, which according to the UN, led to the death of 300,000 people and displacement of 2.7 million in 2003-2004.
The ICC ruling has restricted Al-Bashir to traveling to non-signatories to the Rome Statute, which includes Saudi Arabia. Elsewhere in the world he risks implementation of the warrant and potentially trial at the Hague-based tribunal.