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Bashir’s Candidacy Will Complicate Matters, Says Analyst

An electoral body in Sudan announced Sunday that President Omar al-Bashir is eligible to participate in the next general election despite an arrest warrant against him. Some political analysts believe the announcement will further complicate the country's internal political dynamics. This comes after President Bashir said Sudan would fight against what he described as neocolonialism after The Hague-based International Criminal Court charged him with war crimes in Darfur. Khartoum sharply rejected the ICC's arrest warrant, saying the country is not a member of the Rome Statute on which the court is based. Foaud Hikmat is an analyst with the International Crisis Group (ICG). He tells reporter Peter Clottey that Khartoum's choice of direct confrontation of the world body will undermine its effort of deferment of arrest warrant.

"I think it is a disturbing news and the expulsion of the first fourteen NGO's (Non-Governmental Organizations) is very concerning and then promising to expel more NGO's and diplomats very clearly shows that the government is taking the direction of confrontation with the international community. Specifically, the NGO's and so on rather than taking a sort of responsible and a sort of an objective and constructive approach to managing the crisis within the country. And I think this is very concerning because at the end the decision of expelling the NGO's and as you know the NGO's are not going to be harmed, but those who are going to be harmed are the people that the NGO's would be helping and so on," Hikmat said.

He said the friction between President Bashir's government and the government of Southern Sudan over the expulsion of the NGO's and the recent rhetoric to expel more are to be expected.

"It is obvious, and I think it is understandable the SPLM (Sudan People's Liberation Movement) will not accept such a decision by the government to expel the NGO's because some of these NGO's are also working in the Southern Sudan and not only in Darfur. And it is not very clear that if they are supposed to stop working in Darfur and not to work in the South. But from the decision, it means that these organizations are also not to work in the south. So it means that south is affected," he said.

Hikmat described as unfortunate the one-sided decision of President Bashir's ruling party to expel the Non-Governmental Organizations.

"The other thing is that it is the government decision. But from what I hear, it is a unilateral decision by the National Congress Party (NCP) and not supported by the SPLM. Although it came out as a government decision, that raises a very big question about how the presidency is operating because the NCP could not take unilateral decision like that. But they took it, and so it raises a question of how the two are going to operate, given that they have in front of them a very sensitive agreement regarding the implementation of the pending issues regarding the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)," Hikmat pointed out.

He said the electoral body's decision to declare President Bashir qualified to be presidential candidate of the ruling NCP in next year's general election could jeopardize Sudan's internal political dynamics.

"This is going to complicate the issues very much because you have a president who is being indicted by the International Criminal Court. But of course, the government is not recognizing the court, and they said that okay, their president is going to be the nominee for the elections. This is going to complicate matters very seriously in Sudan because the national opposition parties who have been waiting all these three or four years, they were critical of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. But at least they accepted that fact that they were waiting for the elections as the point where there is opportunity for democratic exchange of power they could access, and so on. And obviously, if Bashir goes for the election, it means that he is guaranteeing that he is going to win, which is going to give him a new legitimacy, and it is going to give him an immunity," he noted.

Last Wednesday, The Hague-based ICC issued an arrest warrant against Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country's restive western region of Darfur between 2003 and 2008. Sudan has rejected the ICC's jurisdiction since the court's chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo launched a campaign against Bashir in July, saying that it is not a signatory of the Rome Statute on which the court is based.

The United Nations has said Bashir is still the head of state of Sudan, and that UN forces in Sudan will continue to deal with him after ICC issued the warrant. Secretary General of the Cairo-based Arab League Amr Moussa reportedly said the pan-Arab bloc expects that Bashir would participate in an Arab summit to be held in Doha, Qatar on March 30.