In Summary
  • When he seized power, Sudan was in the midst of a 21-year civil war between north and south.

  • Although his government signed a deal to end that conflict in 2005, another one was breaking out at the same time - in the western region of Darfur, where President Bashir is accused of organising war crimes and crimes against humanity by the ICC.
  • Despite an international arrest warrant issued by the ICC, he won consecutive elections in 2010 and 2015. However, his last victory was marred by a boycott from the main opposition parties.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's career has been defined by war.

He came to power in a military coup in 1989 and has ruled what was until 2011 Africa's largest country with an iron fist.

CIVIL WAR

When he seized power, Sudan was in the midst of a 21-year civil war between north and south.

Although his government signed a deal to end that conflict in 2005, another one was breaking out at the same time - in the western region of Darfur, where President Bashir is accused of organising war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Despite an international arrest warrant issued by the ICC, he won consecutive elections in 2010 and 2015. However, his last victory was marred by a boycott from the main opposition parties.

The arrest warrant has led to an international travel ban. However, Mr Bashir has made diplomatic visits to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. He was forced into a hasty departure from South Africa in June 2015 after a court considered whether to enforce the arrest warrant.

al-Bashir

Former Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe holds hands with Sudan's President al-Bashir during the family photo of the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon on December 8, 2007. FILE PHOTO

Before taking the helm, he was a commander in the army, responsible for leading operations in the south against the late rebel leader John Garang.

When he signed the peace deal with Garang and his Sudan People's Liberation Movement, he took pains to stress the deal had not been a defeat.

"We did not sign it after we had been broken. We signed it while we were at the peak of our victories," he said.

His goal was always to keep a unified Sudan, but a referendum on secession for South Sudan was agreed as part of the peace deal.

Omar Hassan al-Bashir

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir gestures as he addresses a rally to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the formation of the Popular Defence Forces in Wad Medani November 17, 2007. FILE PHOTO

In the January 2011 referendum, some 99% of South Sudanese voters were in favour of separation. The independent state of South Sudan was declared six months later.

While he agreed to let South Sudan go, his attitude to Darfur - where a conflict has raged since 2003 when rebels took up arms at alleged government discrimination - has been characterised by belligerence.

But he denies international accusations that he has backed Arab Janjaweed militias accused of war crimes against the region's black African communities.

For years, Mr Bashir resisted the deployment of UN peacekeepers to Darfur and any criticism from the West tends to make him and his allies dig in their heels.

al-Bashir

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, wearing a southern traditional dress, listens to the national anthem during a protest with southern Sudanese people against the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for him, in Khartoum March 7, 2009. FILE PHOTO

Mr Bashir was born in 1944 to a farming family in northern Sudan, which was then part of the Egyptian Kingdom. He is a member of Al-Bedairyya Al-Dahmashyya, a Bedouin tribe.

He joined the Egyptian army as a young man and rose through the ranks, fighting in the 1973 war against Israel.

Little is known about the Sudanese leader's private life. He has no children and when in his 50s took a second wife. He married the widow of Ibrahim Shams al-Din, considered a war hero in the north - as an example to others, he said.

The long civil war had seen many colleagues fall, and he implored others to marry again so war widows could be taken care of.

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