Sudanese Leader Shows 'Soft' Side in Darfur

Bashir, charged with genocide, holds rally at scene of crimes
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2008 8:19 AM CDT
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir greets his spporters in Darfur's capital of al-Fasher, Sudan, Wednesday, July 23, 2008. Sudan's president said he would not be cowed by his indictment on genocide charges...   (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)
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(Newser) – Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president allegedly behind one of the world's worst campaigns of genocide and rape, traveled to Darfur yesterday to begin an uncharacteristic charm offensive. "We are with you, Darfur!", the president said, as he danced at a rally packed with thousands who appeared to have been forced to attend. The spectacle is part of Bashir's effort to head off an arrest warrant sought by prosecutors in The Hague, reports the New York Times.

Some 300,000 people have died and more than 2 million have been displaced in the 4 years of Darfur fighting. Bashir, the alleged mastermind behind the campaign and Sudan's dictator-cum-president for 19 years, used the speech to pledge cooperation with UN forces in Darfur—an about-face from earlier promises to mount a jihad against the UN and leave Darfur a "graveyard" of blue helmets.