Sudanese President Al-Bashir Sworn in for Another Five Years

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Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir was sworn in for another five-year term after a landslide victory in April’s elections extended his quarter-century rule over the North African nation.

“I will be president to all Sudanese people, whether they voted for me or they boycotted these elections,” al-Bashir said Tuesday after taking the oath at the national parliament in Omdurman, the twin city of the capital, Khartoum. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe were among those attending the ceremony, which was broadcast on state television.

Al-Bashir’s campaign focused on a pledge to restore peace to the country, which is battling rebellions in at least six of its 18 states. He also vowed to rejuvenate Sudan’s economy, still reeling from the loss of three-quarters of its oil reserves to South Sudan.

Sudan is the world’s biggest producer of gum arabic, an ingredient used in soda drinks and medicines. The commodity’s importance to western markets led the U.S. to exempt it from a trade embargo first imposed on Sudan in 1997 because of the country’s alleged sponsorship of terrorism.

“I am calling on opposition parties and armed movements to join us” in negotiations “and close the doors of sedition,” al-Bashir said. He pledged a “full pardon” for any rebels who surrender their weapons and join government forces.

Court Indictment

Al-Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity during the decade-long conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. He was re-elected in 2010 in a vote whose credibility was questioned by international observers including the European Union.

The 71-year-old won 94 percent of the vote in mid-April polls that the main opposition parties boycotted. Sudan’s electoral board said the turnout was 46.4 percent, higher than the 30 percent to 35 percent estimated by an African Union observer mission.

The regime continues “to be in a survival mode, living from week to week and from month to month but without any long-term visions of how to get Sudan out of the political and economic problems,” said Harry Verhoeven, a professor of government at Georgetown University in Washington and a specialist on the Horn of Africa region.

Al-Bashir said on Tuesday that a new government will be selected within days.

Sudan has witnessed recent “positive developments,” including slowing inflation and victories against rebel groups, Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said by phone.

“I don’t think that Bashir still has the ambition to turn Sudan into a beacon for progress and democracy in Africa or some kind of example for the rest of the Islamic world,” Verhoeven said. “If the Sudanese state is a ship, so the point is not to reach a harbor or a destination, the point is to stay afloat.”

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