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26 Jan, 2010 07:58

“My case in International Criminal Court purely political” – Sudanese leader

Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir has talked with RT’s sister channel, Rusiya al-Yaum, on the Darfur settlement, Sudan-Chad relations and the warrant for his arrest issued by the International Criminal Court.

Currently Sudan's leaders are struggling to get around the table with the rebel groups of its Darfur region – and although it is the third day of the latest peace talks in Qatar, neither side has held direct negotiations over the Darfur crisis.

The UN Security Council is due to hold a closed meeting on the issue later.

The conflict has claimed up to 300,000 lives and left almost 3 million people homeless, but Sudan's president maintains his country can solve the problem by itself, even though he faces an international arrest warrant over Darfur.

And, in an exclusive interview with RT’s sister channel, Rusiya al-Yaum, Omer al-Bashir says foreign leaders do not understand the reality.

Rusiya al-Yaum: Mr. President, how do you assess the initiative of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, which in October this year decided to set up an international court to investigate the events in Darfur?

Omer al-Bashir: Following this decision, it was decided to set up a mixed rather than international court. We have our own independent court and the judicial practice of our courts provides for the formation of such a court in the territory of Sudan for staging a trial over any Sudanese citizen.

This court is supposed to start functioning after peace is achieved and the various parties in Darfur find a way to reconciliation, a process that should pass in keeping with the traditions of the aforesaid region. While doing this, the parties will settle conflicts and differences, settle all legal matters and ensure final reconciliation.

Rusiya al-Yaum: Mr. President, what do you think about the international community’s role in the Darfur settlement in general and in peacekeeping operations in particular as well as in the definition and punishment of people guilty of committing crimes in this Sudanese province?

OB: Naturally, the international community plays a positive role and helps Sudan to establish peace in Darfur. But there is another aspect to this problem: there are forces which seek to overthrow the regime in Sudan. The military forces that are now deployed in Sudan are the peacekeepers whose presence is welcome. To enable them to fulfill their tasks we’ve facilitated and simplified various procedures to the maximum. Thus a trilateral commission of the Sudanese government, the African Union and the United Nations, is working and is doing well.

But we are sometimes surprised by the remarks of the United Nations Secretary General, the commander of the peacekeeping force, which don’t match the real state of things. After the commission members reach understanding, we hear remarks that the government is interfering with the commission’s work.

In short, these statements are not based on the remarks of official workers in Darfur. As far as the legal proceedings are concerned, we would like to state that no one can stand above the law and every crime should be considered in court in all fairness.

Rusiya al-Yaum: Mr. President, earlier the International Criminal Court passed an unprecedented ruling to issue a warrant for your arrest. What steps did the Sudanese government take to reverse that decision, which has caused a negative reaction from many statesmen in many countries?

OB: As far as this court is concerned, I can say that it is of no relation to any aspect of the life in Sudan whatsoever. We don’t have representatives in this court and we haven’t signed the Rome Protocol. The work of that court could have been considered as the final concluding stage in the work of the national court. Our court is active, independent and capable of making decisions in the interests of doing justice. Therefore, I can say that this case is obviously political and all the decisions taken in that court initiated inside that court. We know that a number of witnesses were bribed and were prompted what evidence they should give. Later, some of them returned and spoke at a news conference in Addis Ababa. They told about everything they’d been through.

They said they had been told what evidence they had to give and how they were paid if they refused to do that. In other words, this court is working in the interests of forces hostile to Sudan. For our part, we operate through regional international organizations so everybody can learn the truth about these fabrications, so that everybody can understand that the case is politically motivated and has nothing to do with the law. Its aim is to solve a political problem rather than to achieve justice.

Rusiya al-Yaum: What’s your assessment of the relations between Sudan and Chad? What mechanisms should be used to avoid escalation in tension between the countries?

OB: Chad is our neighbor, of course. Chad and Sudan demonstrate very strong mutual involvement. One could even say that it is one people split into two during the colonial period: into English Sudan and French Sudan. English Sudan was part of Egypt. We have a lot of mixed tribes. People there are free to cross the border, as the citizens of Sudan and Chad do not accept these borders, all the more so, because there are 18 mixed tribes. When the state boundary was defined, the areas where different tribes live were not taken into account. It is the mutual involvement that causes difficulties. Any problem in Chad has an impact in Sudan, while anything happening in Sudan influences Chad. This fact points to the need for normal relations between the two countries. This will become a basis for stability and security.

If tension appears in our relationships, it will then negatively affect security. If, on the contrary, our relationships are warm and friendly, then the situation with security will improve. When problems started in the Darfur region, we actually asked the President of Zambia to act as a mediator in resolving the issue. The rebel leaders were mainly from my tribe. Take Idris, for example. As we know, he was born and raised in Sudan before moving to another place. In view of all that, we valued our relationships.

We are ready to show the initiative and give the start to a change in our relationships. We sent a representative delegation to Chad, headed by Dr. Gazi Salah Eddin, to express our good intentions and show that we are ready and willing to take the initiative. On the other hand, we also did the following: we evacuated the representatives of Chad’s opposition from the border areas to areas further inland in Sudan – so that they don’t escape and undertake any actions in Chad. We value our relationships. We, in turn, expect Chad to reciprocate.

Rusiya al-Yaum: As we know, China plays a vital role in developing Sudan’s oil sector. In what other areas does Sudan cooperate with China and other countries and what’s the size of the material and financial aid which China is giving to Sudan?

OB: China is our main partner in the field of oil extraction. After the US companies left Sudan, we began searching for a new partner. Many Western companies refused to cooperate with us under US pressure. Then, we invited some Russian companies but at that time Russia was going through economic reforms. So we didn’t reach any agreements although representatives of Tatneft, Slavneft and other Russian oil companies that visited Sudan. Today, our oil sector remains open for Russian companies that want to work in our oil market. I’ll repeat that China is the main partner for us, having previously operated successfully in Malaysia and India. It should be noted that China began working in our oil sector when we needed that badly: that’s when the United States and its allies imposed a rigid economic blockade on Sudan. Russia participates in many projects in Sudan. For example, I will name the construction of the Marva dam. Russia granted us credit worth almost US$3 billion, which we are spending on building roads and gas pipelines running through Darfur, as well as for building electric power stations in western Sudan with a capacity of 100 megawatts and a number of other projects.

China is also playing a big part in the construction of industrial facilities and in training our national experts who will work in various spheres.

At the moment, we are considering the development of the agrarian sector. Sudan is an agrarian country which has 200 million acres of agricultural land, of which only 40 per cent is economically used. Together with China, we are planning to change this situation.