Sudan’s embattled president has told a rally that his own officials would track down war criminals in Darfur, dismissing Western attempts to bring justice to the region.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir — who is himself wanted on charges of masterminding atrocities in Darfur — addressed a crowd of thousands in Zalingei, one of the most politically charged towns in Darfur, Reuters reports.
The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Bashir to face charges of alleged war crimes carried out during almost six years of fighting in Sudan’s violent west, but he has refused to deal with the court.
“We know about justice between us and we know how to solve our problems. We have a committee for tribal reconciliation,” Bashir told the crowd.
“After the reconciliation we will investigate those who are criminals and those who committed crimes and those who were killed and those who were killers. This is all guaranteed. Compensation will be paid. Everyone will get their right. This is justice.”
Bashir again refused to reconsider his decision to expel 13 foreign aid groups, including Oxfam and Save the Children, that he accused of helping the global court.
The president also accused Darfur rebels of sabotaging efforts to develop the region and appealed to members of the crowd with links to insurgents to persuade them to lay down their arms.
Zalingei is the birthplace of some of Darfur’s best-known rebels, including Sudan Liberation Army founder Abdel Wahed Mohamed Ahmed al-Nur, and is a hotbed of anti-government sentiment.
But there was no obvious sign of opposition at the rally where Bashir arrived on the back of an open truck, as streams of white-robed Darfuris rode past him on horses and camels.
On the edges on the crowd, people climbed trees and stood on the raised scoop of an industrial digger to get a better view.
Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in Darfur in early 2003, accusing the central government of neglect. Khartoum mobilised mostly Arab militia to quell the revolt.
International experts estimate some 200 000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes. Khartoum puts the death toll at around 10 000.
Bashir praised Arab and African efforts to bring peace to Darfur, including the recent visit of the African Union’s own panel on Darfur, headed by former South African president Thabo Mbeki.
“We thank the AU and the former presidents headed by Mbeki who came here … But we don’t want those Khawajas (foreigners),” he told the crowd.
“Judgement, it’s not here. It’s not with Ocampo or others. Our judgement is before God,” the president said. Luis Moreno-Ocampo is the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court who is leading its war crimes case against Bashir.
Sudan appointed its own special prosecutor to look into reports of war crimes in Darfur in August, but the move has so far not produced any new prosecutions.
The ICC has also issued arrest warrants for a Sudanese government minister and a militia leader over charges of war crimes in Darfur. Sudan has refused to hand them over.