South African court orders Bashir not to leave after ICC call for arrest

A South African court issues an interim order preventing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir leaving the country, where he is attending an African summit, after the ICC called for his arrest.

KHARTOUM, SUDAN (FILE – APRIL 2, 2007) (REUTERS) – A South African court issued an interim order on Sunday (June 14) preventing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir from leaving the country, where he was attending an African Union summit, until the judge hears an application calling for his arrest.

Bashir is accused in an International Criminal Court arrest warrant of war crimes and crimes against humanity over atrocities in the Darfur conflict.

Bashir graduated from Sudan’s military academy in 1966 and was a career army officer who rose to the rank of general.

He served at least one tour of combat duty in the south against the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). In June 1989 he overthrew the democratically elected civilian government of former Prime Minister Sadeq al-Mahdi.

In October 1993, he dissolved the military junta which brought him to power and appointed himself civilian president in a move designed to establish Islamic government in Africa’s largest country as stable and civilian-based.

During the first decade of his rule, Bashir alienated many neighbours and Western governments with his increasingly extremist interpretation of Islam and alleged support for Islamic radicals abroad.

The civil war between Sudan’s mostly animist or Christian south and Muslim north began in 1983 and killed almost 2 million people.

In 2005, Bashir’s government negotiated an end to the war which led to a referendum in the South, resulting in the separation of the south into the separate country of South Sudan.

But by the time Bashir forged a peace deal with the South another conflict was raging in Darfur, the vast, mainly desert province in Sudan’s west.

Beginning in 2003 when Darfur’s population rebelled against perceived government favouritism towards Arabs over the native African population. Bashir’s government allegedly sanctioned the Janjaweed militia to quell the uprising.

Accusations of mass killings by the militia, as well as rape and the forced removal of millions of tribal people from their traditional lands, form the basis for the ICC charges against Bashir. He vehemently denies any responsibility.

An estimated 300,000 people have died of disease, hunger or as a result of violence. Experts believe 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes in the region. Khartoum gives a much lower figure of deaths.