British-Sudanese woman describes ordeal in Sudan after shelling
Vladimir Putin is likely to tighten his grip on Sudan if its brutal former President seizes power, fears the Tory chairwoman of Parliament’s powerful Foreign Affairs committee. An emergency operation is underway to evacuate British citizens trapped in the North African country before the end of a 72-hour ceasefire at midnight tomorrow.
Alicia Kearns took the opportunity to issue a stark warning in respect of Omar al-Bashir, the former military officer ousted as Sudan’s leader in a coup d’etat in 2019.
Uncertainty remains over the former military officer’s whereabouts, with initial rumours suggesting he had escaped Khartoum’s Kober prison, where he has been incarcerated since 2019.
Both sides have blamed the other for allowing him to escape, with the Sudanese army subsequently releasing a statement claiming he had in fact been transferred to a military prison.
Like Russian President Putin, al-Bashir is the subject of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Specifically, he is accused having “masterminded and implemented” a plan to destroy three main ethnic groups in the Darfur of Sudan with a campaign of murder, rape, and deportation which is estimated to have resulted in the deaths of as many as 400,000 people.
He is also accused of “inciting and participating” in the killing of protesters in 2019, when security forces opened fire on demonstrators with live rounds.
He was replaced four years ago in a popular uprising backed by the Sudanese army, commanded by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Sudan’s current military leader, and paramilitary group the Rapid Support Force (RSF), commanded by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
However, the two sides have subsequently fallen out, and more than 500 people killed so far this month in a country which has been descending into chaos ever since the resignation of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in January.
And whatever the truth about his whereabouts, Ms Kearns, MP for Rutland and Melton, predicted the 79-year-old’s return to power would represent a major headache for the West, with more than 500 people having been killed since violence erupted earlier this month.
She told Express.co.uk: “I think that is a point of concern because he obviously is the former president. He has a very close relationship with the Russians and the Chinese.
“He is guilty of genocide and is indicted by the international support for his genocide perpetrated. The challenge is that obviously he was in prison.
“He has yet to be taken to the ICC to face justice. And now we hear that he has managed to escape potentially from prison.”
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Primarily the dispute was between “warring generals”, Dagalo and al-Burhan, Ms Kearns stressed – but al-Bashir’s potential involvement complicated the situation still further, she pointed out.
Al-Burhan’s close ties with Moscow remain a concern regardless, with Ms Kearns pointing out that Russia is widely understood to have smuggled vast quantities of Sudanese gold out of the country, using the profits to fund its war machine.
Assessing the evacuation effort, with the end of the ceasefire looming, Ms Kearns said it was “too early as yet” to deem Britain’s evacuation effort a success.
She said: “Where we have had successes, there are still many vulnerable British nationals on the ground. And we don’t know is what will happen at the end of this 72-hour ceasefire.
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“What we don’t want is for all the foreign nationals to be evacuated and then for Sudan once more to plunge into genocide or into extreme violence. That’s the absolute priority for now.”
Assessing the current chaos, she added: “I don’t think anyone would have predicted this was going to happen.
“We had a session of the foreign affairs committee yesterday and that was most certainly not the conclusion, that this would happen at this speed.
“Also, the reality is that within Sudan, the majority of the violence that has happened in that country is normally within the rural areas, not anywhere near Khartoum, which has always been a place of safety.
“So I’m not I’m not convinced that anybody have seen this coming.”
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