Omar Al-Bashir Steps Down as Commander-in-Chief Ahead of Sudan Elections

Omar Al-Bashir - Facing Elections

Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir bowed out as commander-in-chief of the army ahead of Sudan’s first multi-party elections in 24 years, officials reported on Monday. According to the state owned news agency, SUNA, the president issued a statement on his desire to retire as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Close observers view this as a move by the president to estrange himself from his past ahead of a national wide nomination exercise geared towards April elections. The deputy head of Sudan’s elections commission was quoted by Reuters saying that there was no requirement in the election law for Bashir to resign his military post.

The elections precede a referendum in southern Sudan on January 9, 2011 on whether to secede from the North. The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Bashir last year for war crimes in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. More than 2 million people have lost their lives in the 22 year long civil war between the North and the South. 2009 has seen a serious spike in violence in which more than 2,500 have been killed and 350,000 displaced in South Sudan. In Darfur, the conflict in which hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed remains unresolved and millions continue to suffer daily in camps. LRA fighters are causing trouble in the Western Equatorial area and it is impossible to tell whether such violence is part of a wider insurgency, according to Human Rights Watch, HRW.

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