from RAJI BASHIR in Khartoum, Sudan
KHARTOUM – THE resignation of Sudan president, Omar al-Bashir, brings to an end one of the longest and most controversial reigns in the African continent.
Al-Bashir, the iron-fisted ruler who came to power after a coup against ousted the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, has succumbed to widespread national protests demanding his resignation after years of economic decline and allegations of war crimes.
The final straw was the decision by thousands of protesters converging in the army headquarters on Thursday in the capital Khartoum.
The army reportedly forced Al-Bashir to step down. His whereabouts were unknown at the time of going to press but impeccable source claim he was locked up at state house where a transitional government is being formulated.
At least eight people were killed during the latest round of protests.
In total, more than 60 people have been killed during the government’s brutal crackdown against demonstrators.
Human rights groups and opposition parties have since December last year led the protests.
Al-Bashir (75) came to power in 1989 as a brigadier in the Sudanese Army, he led a group of officers in a military coup that ousted al-Mahdi. He was the country’s seventh leader.
Since assuming power, Al-Bashir has been elected three times as president in polls that have been under scrutiny for electoral rigging.
In March 2009, he became the first sitting president to be indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), for allegedly directing a campaign of mass killing, rape and pillage against civilians in Darfur.
The United Nations (UN) estimates that 300 000 civilians have been killed since the war began in 2003.
Bashir’s government responded to rebel groups’ attacks by carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Darfur’s non-Arabs.
The International Criminal Court accused al-Bashir of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.
The court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir in 2009 but he has evaded numerous arrests during foreign visits.
In 2015, while in South Africa for an African Union (AU) meeting, al-Bashir was prohibited from leaving the country while a court decided whether he should be handed over to the ICC for the alleged war crimes.
He, nonetheless, was allowed to leave South Africa by former president Jacob Zuma’s administration soon afterward.
The arrest warrant has been a source of division between ICC and African Union, League of Arab States, Non-Aligned Movement as well as the governments of China and Russia which accuse the ICC of only targeting leaders from third world countries.
Besides a reign riddled by war, Al-Bashir allegedly looted the impoverished nation of much of its wealth, with leaked United States (US) diplomatic cables suggesting $9 billion of his siphoned wealth was stashed in overseas banks.
– CAJ News