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January 10, 2019

Bashir defiant as pressure mounts


January 10, 2019

KHARTOUM: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted on genocide and war crimes charges, remains defiant in the face of anti-regime demonstrations that have challenged his decades old iron-fisted rule.

Deadly protests have rocked Sudan since the government raised the price of bread last month amid the African country’s ongoing economic crisis. At least 19 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in protests that first erupted on December 19 in towns and villages, before spreading to the capital Khartoum.

Human Rights Watch says at least 40 people have been killed, including children. Although similar protests marred his regime in September 2013 and in January 2017, analysts say the current demonstrations are the biggest challenge since Bashir swept to power in a coup backed by Islamists in 1989.

Indicted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court in 2009 and in 2010 on genocide and war crimes charges, the president has since been re-elected twice in polls boycotted by opposition groups.

The 75-year-old has proved to be a political survivor, facing down not only the ICC indictments but also a myriad of domestic challenges. On Wednesday, dancing and waving a stick in his trademark style, Bashir greeted hundreds of supporters at Khartoum’s Green Yard in what was the first pro-regime rally in the capital since protests erupted last month.

"This gathering sends a message to those who think that Sudan will become like other countries that have been destroyed," said a defiant Bashir, flanked by his wife and security guards.

Despite ICC indictments, Bashir has flouted travel restrictions by regularly visiting regional countries and also Russia. Days before the protests erupted he visited Damascus to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, becoming the first Arab leader to do so since the country’s conflict began.

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