A ray of hope is finally dawning on Sudan as President Omar al-Bashir says he will step down in 2020 and will not seek the position again.
Mr Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and in an exclusive interview with BBC, he said he’s not worried about the accusation.
According to him, the arrest warrant issued against him by ICC has increased his popularity among the people of Sudan and led to his re-election in 2015.
The head of state was charged by the ICC in 2009 over alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes during the Darfur conflict.
But the President holds that the people of Sudan are not in any way oppressed citing how they greeted him during his recent visit to Darfur.
Dismissing the ICC as a "politicized tribunal", Bashir said the way in which the crowds received him should be proof that he did not commit the crimes he is accused of including genocide and ethnic cleansing.
The president who has been in power since 1989, told BBC that his job was “exhausting” and his current term would be his last.
"In 2020, there will be a new president and I will be an ex-president," he said.
To skeptics, this information is not seating well with them. They argue that he had already pledged to step down in the past, a promise he did not observe.
Before the April 2015 elections, Bashir had earlier (Jan 2014) promised to step down but by October the same year, the National Congress Party leaders endorsed him by a 94 percent margin at a party conference. Out went the pledge he had given to his people, just a few months earlier.
With such precedent set in the past, Sudanese and the rest of the world can only wait and see if he will keep the end of the bargain in four years’ time, this time around.
No need for Aid
According to Bashir, the UN peacekeepers and aid workers have no reason to stay in Darfur.
UN reports estimate that more than 2.5 million people have been displaced in Darfur since 2003.
Bashir dismissed these claims arguing that the numbers by the UN are very inflated giving the world the wrong image about the country. He estimated the number of people living in camps in Darfur to be 160,000.
The president said the small number of the displaced people does not require UN Peacekeepers (Unamid) to continue pitching camp in the country. They "have no vital role to play" in Darfur, "not even in defending themselves and their units".
"As peace has returned to Darfur, I think that they have no role to undertake and that's why we want them to leave," he said adding that aid workers have no role as there is no food crisis in Darfur.
Commenting on the reports of recent abuses in the mountains of Jebel Marra where government forces launched an attack in January, Bashir said the “allegations were baseless” and untrue.
"We challenge anyone to visit the areas recaptured by the armed forces and find a single village that has been torched.
"In fact, there hasn't been any aerial bombing."
If Bashir steps down in 2020, he will be the first among presidents from Zimbabwe, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, among others who have had to review their constitutions to allow their lengthy presidential terms.
In other news, a referendum on Darfur administrative status will be held for three days starting 11 to 13 April to determine whether or not the region will keep its five states or reunite as one entity with a semi-autonomous administration.
Image Credit: dabangasudan.org