KAMPALA: President Omar Hassan Bashir, was forced to step down by the military on Thursday after popular protests in that country, especially the capital Khartoum. The latest development is likely to force the next move to arrest him to answer for crimes against humanity.
Bashir, who usurped power in a bloodless coup in 1989, was at the presidential residence under “heavy guard”, according to sources in the country. Tens of thousands of protesters danced and chanted anti-Bashir slogans in the streets of Khartoum.
During his 30-year rule, Bashir was a master at playing rival factions among security services, the military, Islamists and armed tribes off against each other. But he underestimated the anger of young Sudanese men and women demanding an end to economic hardships.
Bashir as a result faced almost daily defiance in towns and cities across Sudan despite a crackdown by security forces using teargas and sometimes live ammunition, in which dozens of people have been killed.
Talking to soldiers in January, Bashir warned the “rats to go back to their holes” and said he would move aside only for another army officer or when defeated in elections ahead.
“They said they want the army to take power. That’s no problem. If someone comes in wearing khaki, we have no objection,” Bashir, wearing his military uniform, told soldiers at a base in Atbara, the northern city where protests erupted.
Later in January, Bashir declared a national state of emergency that expanded police powers and banned unlicensed public gatherings. He told parliament to postpone, not cancel, constitutional amendments that would allow him to seek another term.
Bashir, 75, has long been a divisive figure.
Since taking office in what was then Africa’s largest country, he fought a protracted civil war with southern rebels which ended with the secession of South Sudan in 2011, and the loss of more than 70 percent of Sudan’s oil.
Sudan has suffered prolonged periods of isolation since 1993, when the United States added Bashir’s government to its list of terrorism sponsors for harboring Islamist militants. Washington followed up with sanctions four years later.
His mistreatment of black South Sudanese led to the independence and creation of the Republic of South Sudan.
Bashir becomes the latest African president to be forced out of office by the army on the pleas of masses after Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe not many months ago.