Sudanese President Omar El-Bashir has pledged to offer state protection to the joint UN peacekeeping force in Darfur and scoffed at efforts to slap him with charges of crimes against humanity as an attempted regime change.
Speaking on arrival at the start of his visit to Darfur, where he is being accused of complicity in the mass murder of some 35,000 people, the Sudanese leader said the International Criminal Court (ICC) charges were aimed at diverting attention.
President El-Bashir said the ICC charges were an attempt to install a friendly regime in the Sudan and distract the current government from its development efforts in Darfur.
He said his government was ready to restore peace and provide justice to the victims of the Darfur conflict, whom he lavished with pledges of development, including the connection to the main power grid to lessen the risk of power outages.
The Sudanese leader has been holding a series of bilateral negotiations with African leaders on the possibility of having the charges withdrawn.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has said the ICC is an independent institution of the UN which he is unable to prevail upon to drop the charges.
President El-Bashir, who also met with senior UN officials in Darfur, assured the joint African Union and the UN Mission (UNAMID) forces in Darfur of government’s full protection.
The Sudanese leader expressed his condolences to UNAMID and the families of those peacekeepers who lost their lives in Darfur while serving the mission.
Seven peacekeepers were killed in an ambush earlier this month in North Darfur and barely two weeks later, another was shot dead in West Darfur.
President El-Bashir reiterated his resolve to provide security for UNAMID staff and convoys.
“You are our guests and our partners,” he said, “and we are ready to provide any assistance that will help you do your work.”
The UN-AU Joint Special Representative for Darfur, Rodolphe Adada, spoke of how UNAMID’s deployment was besieged by numerous challenges, but said that the mission was bent on bringing UNAMID up to its full capacity as soon as possible.
Adada pointed out that UNAMID had thousands of containers awaiting movement along the difficult and sometimes dangerous routes in Darfur, and called on the Government of Sudan to ensure that the convoys reached their destinations safely.
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sudan (UNMIS), Asharaf Qazi, also travelled to Darfur and attended the meetings with El-Bashir.