al-Bashir, Omar Hassan Ahmad
al-Bashir, Omar Hassan Ahmad (1944– )
The president of Sudan since 1989, Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir came to power through a coup during the Second Sudanese Civil War, after which he clamped down on political activity, restricted press freedom, and introduced sharia law. Partly as a result, his time in office has been characterized by armed uprisings against his government and a series of Sudanese Civil Wars. Al-Bashir’s National Congress government signed a peace agreement with southern rebels in 2005, paving the way for a referendum on the secession of South Sudan in 2011 and the subsequent formation of the new country. However, this did not return Sudan to peace, as a new conflict had started in 2003 in the western region of Darfur. Accusations that the government had sponsored efforts to eradicate three non-Arab ethnic groups led to an international controversy over whether or not the situation represented a genocide. In turn, this contributed to al-Bashir being charged with crimes against humanity and genocide by the International Criminal Court, which issued an international warrant for his arrest. Although he has been able to visit a number of African states that have refused to enforce the warrant, the ICC charges have significantly restricted the president’s movements. More recently, popular support for al-Bashir’s government has been undermined by a period of economic decline. However, this has not translated into electoral defeat because, while multiparty elections have been held since 2010, the opposition boycotted the 2015 presidential poll, citing corruption and fraud. In the absence of credible rivals, al-Bashir was re-elected with 94 per cent of the vote.