Sudan swore in President Omar al-Bashir for another five-year term Tuesday, extending his 25-year rule as many Arab leaders stayed away from the ceremony for the world's only sitting leader wanting on international war crimes charges.
During al-Bashir's quarter century in power, Sudan lost a third of its territory as South Sudan broke away and internal wars with rebel movements and international sanctions battered its economy.
Before his re-election, al-Bashir sought to make a major shift in his foreign policy, departing from his strategic alliance with Iran and inching closer to Sunni power Saudi Arabia in its proxy war against the Islamic Republic by throwing his support to the kingdom-led coalition against Shiite rebels in Yemen.
The shift, critics say, ensures a new cash lifeline from oil-rich countries to help the Sudanese economy.
Days before his inauguration, al-Bashir paid two visits to Saudi Arabia and Qatar to invite its leaders to the ceremony, though they didn't show up. Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and a handful of African leaders, including Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, did attend.
In a ceremony held in the city of Omdurman, al-Bashir promised to combat corruption and emphasize economic growth. He also offered amnesty to armed rebel groups if they agreed to peace talks.
Al-Bashir, who took power in a bloodless Islamist coup in 1989, is the only sitting head of state facing genocide charges at the International Criminal Court. The charges stem from the conflict in Darfur, which killed 300,000 people and displaced 2 million during the government's brutal response to an armed rebellion there, according to United Nations figures.
Al-Bashir won a four-day vote in April, only the second multi-candidate election to be held in Sudan since al-Bashir came to power. However, opposition parties boycotted the poll and many of the polling centers were empty, though official results claimed a 46.4-percent turnout. Al-Bashir won 94 percent of the vote.
After his victory, the opposition said in a joint statement that it will not recognize the results and called on the people to join ranks to "topple'' al-Bashir.
In his speech Tuesday, al-Bashir made pledges to draft a permanent constitution and end conflicts in at least three war-torn regions of the country. In a goodwill gesture to opposition, he also said: "The arms of the nation are open to everyone.''
"We give amnesty to those carrying weapons who are genuine in returning to participation in the talks,'' he said.
Hundreds of ruling party supporters rallied outside the National Assembly building overlooking the Nile during his al-Bashir's inauguration, waving pictures of the leader.
KHARTOUM, SUDAN -