KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was defiant towards the International Criminal Court Tuesday, telling it to “eat” an expected warrant for his arrest for alleged war crimes in Darfur.
“They will issue their decision tomorrow ... this coming decision, they can prepare right now: they can eat it (the warrant),” Bashir told a crowd of cheering supporters who lit and stamped on an effigy of ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo.
Bashir’s comments were made at the opening of a hydroelectric dam in Merowe, northern Sudan, a day before ICC judges were due to respond to a request by Ocampo for an arrest warrant for Bashir on charges of war crimes in the Darfur region of western Sundan.
The opening of the dam took place in a carnival atmosphere with confetti and music, and Bashir sought to dismiss the importance of the Hague-based court’s decision.
“They want us preoccupied with their issues, their accusations ... we want to say to people, don’t be too concerned with these decisions. We want the answer,” Bashir said.
The answer, Bashir said, is Sudanese development, and he announced a raft of projects in the works, including more dams, highways and more cultivation of wheat.
“This is a proud people, a people that do not accept insults, do not accept humiliation,” Bashir said. Challenges like the ICC are “added motivation for more achievements.”
The opening of the dam, billed by Bashir as “the beginning of the end of poverty in Sudan,” was attended by dignitaries from Arab states, as well as Chinese officials, and executives from European and Chinese companies involved in the project.
TENSIONS OVER WARRANT
Bashir used the occasion to announce cuts in electricity prices, for the poor and for industry and agriculture, ranging between 25-30 percent.
Tensions have risen in Sudan as it awaits the decision by the ICC, which China, the African Union and the Arab League have warned could destabilise the region, worsen the Darfur conflict and threaten an already troubled peace deal between north Sudan and the semi-autonomous south.
Some Western embassies have warned their citizens of the potential for violent protests if Bashir is charged.
Sudanese officials have sought to reassure foreign missions that while there would be “popular expressions” if the ICC issued a warrant, authorities would not allow diplomats, their missions or foreigners to be targeted.
According to international experts, the Darfur conflict has killed 200,000 people and uprooted 2.7 million since 2003, when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government, demanding better representation and regional infrastructure.
Khartoum mobilized mostly Arab militias to crush the revolt.
Reporting by Aziz El-Kaissouni
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