Title: Sudan election is 'propaganda', says rebel leader
Author: Guardian News
Date: 02-25-2015, 05:53 PM
05:53 PM Feb, 25 2015
My Library at SudaneseOnline
Wednesday 25 February 2015 00.00 EST Last modified on Wednesday 25 February 2015 02.51 EST
Minni Minnawi spoke out after the US announced it was easing some sanctions on Khartoum despite reports that renewed violence in Darfur has forced more than 50,000 people to flee their homes since the start of the year.
Bashir has to face justice. He is killing people on a daily basis
Minnawi, chairperson of a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army, which has long been fighting government forces in Darfur, believes that elections set for April will be meaningless. “Bashir has won already,” he said in a rare interview, via satellite phone from an undisclosed location. “This is not an election. I personally, and our movement, shall not recognise this election.”
Opposition parties have threatened to boycott the polls which they say are loaded in Bashir’s favour. Sudan would not be the first country in Africa where, critics say, regular elections are held to maintain an illusion of democracy.
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Minnawi, 46, added: “The election is a form of propaganda. We are calling on the international community not to recognise the National Congress Party (NCP) government. Bashir has to face justice. He is killing people on a daily basis.”
Bashir, who came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, is enjoying a run of good fortune. Last December the International Criminal Court (ICC) shelved its investigation in Darfur, citing lack of support from the UN security council, although the president still faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and three counts of genocide.
Last week Washington said it would relax some long-standing sanctions, allowing communications equipment including smartphones and laptops into the country.
After a recent meeting in Khartoum, Jacob Zuma, president of the continent’s major power, South Africa, spoke warmly of Bashir as a “dear brother” and emphasised “the growing cooperation between our two countries”. Minnawi criticised Zuma for the remark: “It is shameful that he would say something like that. President Zuma struggled against segregation in South Africa. There is segregation in Sudan. Bashir may be a ‘brother’ in Africa but he is not ‘dear’.”
Darfur, a region in western Sudan, has been devastated by fighting since marginalised mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms in 2003 against the Arab-led government in Khartoum. The main rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army, splintered into factions including the SLA-MM led by Minnawi, and the SLA-AW under Abdel Wahid Mohammed al-Nur.
Minni Minnawi during an interview with the Associated Press in the Darfur town of El Fasher, 2006. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Minni Minnawi during an interview with the Associated Press in the Darfur town of El Fasher, 2006. Photograph: Nasser Nasse/AP
The SLA-MM was the only rebel group to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement in 2006, giving Minnawi a position as a presidential adviser and turning the rebels against each other. But he was later sidelined, and has returned to the fight against Bashir, though some commentators believe he has never regained political credibility.
Minnawi, who is from the minority Zaghawa tribe, said: “I never regret what I did. I did it for the sake of my people and the peace and stability of my country. But I got no more than before. Bashir never listens to anybody.
“Really he is a disaster for Sudan and Africa as well. He is the criminal who committed war crimes and genocide. He is an addicted liar. He is a typical person whom you can never trust him and a racist full of hatred. The separation of Sudan [creating South Sudan] proved that Bashir is racist.”
The Sudanese army and its allied militia, the Janjaweed, have been accused of a long list of atrocities in Darfur during a conflict the UN says has killed at least 300,000 people and displaced two million.
Minnawi said he has personally witnessed war crimes over the years: “I saw all atrocities: brutal killing, burning of villages, displacement committed by the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed, including poisoning water, devastating all human properties and enslaving the people. I have never been injured, although many of my friends died or were injured in front of me.”
Although the crisis seems to have dropped off the world’s radar, activists say there has been a rise in attacks on civilians over the past year, spearheaded by the government’s new Rapid Support Forces, consisting largely of former militias. The UN panel of experts on Sudan reported that more 3,000 villages were burned in Darfur in 2014. In one incident, according to Human Rights Watch, 221 women and girls in Tabit in northern Darfur were raped by Sudanese army forces in their homes, in the streets and in front of their families.
I think strong pressure on the regime is needed for humanitarian issues and a political solution
Last week the charity Oxfam said a new wave of violence had forced more than 50,000 people to flee their homes so far in 2015. Thousands of families are facing limited access to food, adequate water supply and shelter, it added.
Minnawi called on the international community to step in before another catastrophe unfolds. “I think strong pressure on the NCP regime is needed for humanitarian issues and a political solution. The UN security council must adopt a no-fly zone in all the conflict areas in Sudan. The security council should assist the ICC to arrest Bashir and should not assist the genocidal government.
“All countries, especially the UK, must play a positive role in helping the people of Sudan, not standing at the side of the genocidal government.”
Minnawi praised the efforts of Hollywood actor George Clooney to keep the plight of Darfur in the spotlight despite dwindling media interest. “I appreciate that personally, and all people of marginalised areas appreciate it. I really salute him and call other good people to join his campaign.”
Minnawi himself is understood to be facing prosecution after signing a declaration uniting the country’s political and armed opposition and “calling for peace and popular democratic transformation”. The joint agreement in December was branded “treason” by Khartoum which quickly arrested some signatories and, according to the Sudan Tribune, is requesting that Interpol issue red notices for Minnawi and Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the opposition Umma party.
“Bashir is very desperate,” Minnawi said. “He wants to distract and divert public attention from the crimes he is perpetrating. Everybody, including children, knows that Bashir is a fugitive running from the ICC.
“But I do not fear justice in any situation because I’m fighting for justice. Let the ICC accuse me. I will never run away from justice, but any warrant is just for propaganda. Why now? It is part of their hot summer that they declared for genocide, to draw attention publicly that they are doing something.”
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