As police cracked down on protests against the slashing of fuel subsidies in Sudan, which have resulted in at least 50 deaths, the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Ahmed Karti used the nation’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly to protest the U.S. decision to deny a visa to the country’s president, who faces international war crimes and genocide charges.
Despite an outstanding warrant for his arrest from the International Criminal Court, linked to the conflict in the Darfur region in which around 300,000 people have died since 2003, Sudan’s president Omar Hassan al-Bashir planned to attend the U.N. General Assembly this past week and had already booked a hotel in New York.
Ali Ahmed Karti called the alleged visa denial an “unjustified and unacceptable action,” while the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, had called Bashir’s intention to travel to New York “deplorable, cynical and hugely inappropriate.”
The U.S. has never denied a visiting head of state who wants to speak at the United Nations entrance into the country. Under a treaty between the U.S. and the U.N., Washington is obligated to issue the visa as the world body’s host country. Despite this, the country had made it clear that it did not want al-Bashir to arrive in New York. Had he been granted entrance, al-Bashir would have been the first head of state to address the world body while facing international war crimes and genocide charges.
Meanwhile, in Sudan, protests broke out in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities over high fuel prices, while the country’s internet was cut off on the third day of protest. In an effort to turn a wave of popular anger into a full-fledged uprising against the 24-year rule of al-Bashir, 5,000 protesters demonstrated in some of the biggest protests in many years in the Khartoum area.
The country’s economy has worsened in the past few years, especially after southern Sudan seceded and took the country’s main oil-producing territory. Still, al-Bashir has managed to keep a grip on the regime, surviving armed rebellions, U.S. trade sanctions, an economic crisis, and an attempted coup last year. He also continues to enjoy support from the army, his ruling party, and wealthy Sudanese with wide-ranging business interests.
– Nayomi Chibana