Mystery of Ex-Dictator Heightens Sudan Crisis

Omar Hassan al-Bashir was in prison but now the military says he's in the hospital
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 26, 2023 6:10 PM CDT
Missing Ex-Dictator Adds Tension to Sudan Crisis
In a 2011 file photo, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir attends the funeral of Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud.   (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

Sudan's journey towards democratic rule has hit a wall. As rival generals clash, fomenting internal turmoil, the question of former dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir's whereabouts is "swirling around the country," the New York Times reports. Deposed in 2019 after three decades, the former leader is wanted by the International Criminal Court which seeks to charge him with war crimes and crimes against humanity. In Sudan, he's still on the hook for charges tied to the 1989 coup that catapulted him into leadership. Al-Bashir faces a death sentence or life behind bars if convicted.

The AP reports that questions about al-Bashir's whereabouts arose after an attack on Khartoum's Kober prison, where he has been held for four years along with other former members of his government, out of reach for the ICC though they have been accused of committing atrocities. The ICC initially issued a warrant for al-Bashir in 2009—the first time one had been brought against an active head of state. An accompanying press release said he was accused of "intentionally directing attacks" in Darfur, in which civilians were murdered, raped, tortured, and "forcibly" moved.

According to Reuters, Sudan's military said al-Bashir and at least five others were sent from Kober to a military hospital on April 15, before hostilities began—this following an earlier, vague announcement that he'd simply left the prison. In a Facebook notice pointed out by the Times, the General Command of the Armed Forces said the former officials were "at the Aliaa Hospital in the Armed Forces due to their health conditions," and "they are still in the hospital under the custody and supervision of the judicial police." The military has not, however, provided photographs or any other evidence, the Times reports.

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The current conflict in Sudan is a tale of two generals, Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan and Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. They joined forces four years ago during an uprising to give al-Bashir the boot. The generals cooperated in a coup in late 2021, ditching a power-sharing agreement between the military and civil authorities. That cooperation lasted until this April, when their respective forces went to war. (More Sudan stories.)

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