(AA) – After a quarter of a century in power, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir faces a troubling time ahead following his re-election this week.
The 71-year-old, who came to power in a 1989 military coup, is beset by multiple challenges, both for himself and the country of 35.5 million.
Among the difficulties facing Sudan are its severe economic woes, compounded by international isolation, and the three civil wars currently raging across the country.
For Bashir, who six years ago became the first sitting president to be indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), his personal problems include his declining health and the threat of prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region if he loses power.
These potential crises are perhaps the reason for Bashir’s more conciliatory tone at his inauguration on Tuesday, according to observers.
“Bashir wants by all means to protect himself from being arrested and handed over to the ICC, so he did everything to win the elections,’’ Abdul Ali, a Sudanese analyst, said.
The president, head of the National Congress Party, won the recent election, which was boycotted by opposition parties, with 94 percent of the vote to secure another five-year term.
‘’Sudan is facing a deep economic crisis due to the loss of oil revenues in 2011 and the international sanctions,” Ali said. “War has been ignited on the outskirts of the country. All these factors, beside the repeated social unrest by the civil parties in the middle of Sudan motivated by the absence of human rights, can’t be solved by Bashir.”
Addressing his inauguration audience, which included regional leaders such as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Bashir called for peace talks with rebels in Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states.
He also promised to focus on an economy badly hit by the loss of oil revenues when South Sudan ceded in 2011 and pledged reforms to introduce civil liberties.
“I will be the president of all Sudanese people and even those who decided to boycott the elections or voted for another presidential candidate, I grant them freedom during my new term,” Bashir said.
However, his attempts to soothe Sudan’s troubled waters have been dismissed by those they were aimed at.
Rebels and opposition parties rejected his calls for a “national dialogue” to bring a comprehensive peace to the country. His offer of a pardon for rebel fighters was also dismissed.
Abdul Wahid Alnour, chairman of the Sudan Liberation Movement, described Bashir’s overtures as “political propaganda” and called for a general uprising to topple the president.
“Bashir wants to invite us to a theatre of the absurd,” Alnour told Anadolu Agency. “Our only reply to this tricky invitation is a strong call for our people, especially in the marginalized and war areas in Sudan, to stand up and throw out the criminals of the ruling party.”
Communist Party spokesman Youssef Hussein said the opposition would not participate in Bashir’s vague plans.
“The president has avoided putting a clear plan for the dialogue,” he said. “We are not going to participate in the dialogue after the rigging elections.
“He should prepare an inclusive atmosphere for such dialogue. He can announce ceasing hostilities in the war areas, forming a transitional government and granting public freedoms then, after that, we can think about his initiative.”
However, Nabil Elaraby, Secretary General of the Arab League, hailed Bashir’s promise of a general pardon.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency after the inauguration, Elaraby called on rebel groups to join the negotiations.
“The solution for the Sudanese crisis should be a peaceful one,” he said. “The adoption of a military solution will complicate the difficulties. I urge the rebels to take this opportunity to bring peace and stability to Sudan.”
Despite this support, Bashir remains a pariah in the eyes of the rest of the international community. Following the results of April’s election, the U.S., Britain, Norway and Canada were among those who criticized his regime for its “failure to create a free, fair and conducive elections environment.”
The U.S. said the outcome was not “a credible expression of the will” of the people.