Sudanese in Egypt, rights groups condemn expected Omar al-Bashir visit
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir - REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

CAIRO: Following news that Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, a member of his country’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and a man indicted by the U.N.’s International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide will soon visit Egypt on a state visit, members of Egypt’s Sudanese community have expressed outrage.

“Egypt cares only for its own interests, ignoring the humanitarian situation in Sudan, and Bashir’s visit to Cairo is depressing for the Sudanese people living here,” said Wadah Tabir of the Arab Coalition for Sudan in remarks to The Cairo Post Sept. 11.

Egyptian State news agency MENA reported on Aug. 31 that Bashir will soon pay a visit to Egypt according to comments made by Sudanese Investment Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail.

“President Omar al-Bashir planned his first foreign visit to Egypt following a period of convalescence from an operation on his knee recently,” Ismail said in remarks to Egyptian journalists covering the tripartite talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia in Khartoum over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

A Wanted Man

States that have adopted and ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court have agreed in principle to arrest Bashir and other indicted figures should they set foot in their territory, and turn them over to the ICC for prosecution. Ratified signatory nations include most of Africa, Europe and the Americas, but notably lack Egypt, China, Russia and the United States.

“President Bashir is nearly an isolated President, and his movement has narrowed internationally due to the ICC warrant, so he wants to deliver a message that he is not isolated,” said Haitham Nouri, a Sudanese political analyst living in Cairo in comments to The Cairo Post Sept. 11.

In March 2009, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir on charges he and his Arab tribal allies were responsible for genocide against non-Arab Sudanese in Darfur in western Sudan, and crimes against humanity. The ICC’s indictment made Bashir the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the court.

According to U.N. statistics collected on the Darfur Genocide from August 2007, more than 200,000 people were killed and at least 2 million others have been displaced from their homes since fighting broke out in 2003 between government forces and their allies the Arab tribal Janjaweed militias on one side, and rebel groups on the other.

Bashir’s visit to Egypt comes as a response to a recent visit by Sisi to Khartoum following the 23rd African Union Summit in Equatorial Guinea in June, Nouri said. He added he believed future meetings may include Sudan agreeing to take in members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, but likely would not involve talks over Darfur.

The Sudanese Embassy in Cairo did not return requests for comments on Bashir’s visit. However, plenty of Sudanese activists living in Egypt did.

The Arab Coalition for Sudan was founded in 2008 and includes more than 130 non-government organizations for supporting and helping people who have suffered from conflicts in Sudan, according to Tabir.

“Egypt should take action towards what is happening in Sudan, especially in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, as Egyptian reception for Bashir gives the impression Egypt does not care about the human rights situation,” he said.

Fighting Continues

Fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and the Sudanese armed forces in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states has been ongoing since 2011. Many of those fighting against the government in these areas are ethnic Nubians who have been subjected to indiscriminate bombing campaigns.

Sudanese journalist and political activist Abdel Ghafar el-Mahdi told The Cairo Post Thursday that Bashir’s visit is a catastrophe, as Egypt exploits the Sudanese people for its own interests.

“The Sudanese people in Egypt have been neglected by the Egyptian authorities and Cairo bans the Sudanese opposition from doing their activities,” Mahdi said, adding that Egyptian authorities prevented a conference organized by Sudanese opposition groups scheduled to be held on Aug. 16.

He also said the Egyptian intelligence services have even cooperated with their Sudanese counterparts to allow Sudanese agents to monitor and threaten Sudanese dissidents in Egypt.

“The Sudanese security file exists in the Egyptian intelligence services, not in the Foreign Ministry, and Sudanese security men have been in Cairo among the refugees since the downfall of [former President Hosni] Mubarak,” Mahdi claimed.

One of the ‘Worst Terrorists in the World’

Mahdi called the Khartoum regime one of the “worst terrorists in the world,” and said the government operates like a gang. He questioned why Egypt cooperates with a Sudanese government tied with the Muslim Brotherhood, while at the same time it oppresses the group at home. Bashir belongs to the National Islamic Front, the Muslim Brotherhood branch in Sudan.

Sudanese refugees have been ignored by the Egyptian government, Mahdi said, assigning the blame for the mistreatment on the Egyptian government and the Foreign Ministry. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported 18,000 Sudanese refugees lived in Egypt, while another 11,000 were asylum seekers in 2013.

But Sudanese living in Egypt have not been the only ones critical of Bashir’s expected visit.

Human Right Watch, in a statement to The Cairo Post via email, criticized the visit and asked Egyptian authorities to refuse to receive Bashir, saying, “Bashir is sought by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. Even if Egypt is not a member of the ICC, it should not welcome this fugitive from justice for alleged atrocities.”

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