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An exclusive intreview with his Excellency Omer Hassan Ahmed Al- Bashir, President of the Republic of the Sudan

His Excellency Omer Al-Basher(State President)

The role of the Sudan today, said the President, shouldn't be divorced from its role in the past and what it will be in the future: to serve as a bridge that brings Africa together with the Middle East and the Arab World.

President Bashir not only says that he sees his country bringing Africa togetherwith the Middle East and the Arab Countries world, he explains why peace may finally be at hand in his country. And he also takes strong issue with many of the criticisms that have been leveled against the Sudan in recent years. And spells out where those criticisms are coming from.

Bashir, who became the Sudan's president in 1989 and was elected to new five-year term in 1996, graduated from the Sudan Academy for adminstrative sciences before beginning a career in the military. He earned two master,s degrees in military science and rose to the rank of Lieutenant General while commanding the Sudan's Eighth infantry Brigade prior to becoming President in 1989.

What would you like fellow World leaders to know about the Republic of the Sudan?

I would like the leaders of the World to expercise their knowledge about the Sudan based on what the realities are in our country, not from what they,ve read or heard from some in the media who have portrayed our country in a negative light. This is important particularly with thr respect to issues like human rights, democracy and terorism - isses that are usually conveyed to the world by the media in a negative way.

We invite the people of the world to come to Sudan and see and experience for themselves what is happining here, particularly because we are perceived by some as an "Islamic - only" country. We encourage intersted parties to come to see our way of life, our traditions, cultures, and how we deel with differences. We invite poeple to open their hearts and minds and to come and learn about the great transition that is underway in this country, a transition that has lifted our country from a state of malaise, and a dependency on foreign aid, to a country whose people are ready to work hard, to produce more, to depend on themselves, and to end the era of dependency that has afflicted many African countries.

The Sudan was able to realize this great transition by depending heavily on its own resources and people. And this transition came at a time when the Sudan was denied foreign aid. We invite people to come and to see that, despite the diveristies that can devide a countyr like this. Our people were and are able to coexit and to live as brothers and sisters and transcend the difficulties that usually arise from diversities. We believe the Sudan can serve as an example of how people of different

You mentioned that Sudan has been mis-characterized by some in the media.Where do you think these mis-charcterizations are originating?

The mis -characterizations come in three categories - internal, regional and international.

Internally, they consist of repels from the Southern part of the Sudan who call themselves " The oppositon" we understand their furstration of not being in bower, something they were accustomed to under colonial rule.They now feel, however,that the Apricl 1997 peace agreement that six of the seven major repels leaders sigend with the Sudanese government has for the first time addressed the grivances of that they were fighting for over 30 years.

Regionally, they are associated with some of our neighboring countries, particularly Egypt, which sees the Sudan's islamic emergence as something that will threaten the status quo - especially since Egypt has a long history of confrontation with its own Islamists.

Internationally, it emanates from the fact that, following the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war, any country that asiperd to an independent course in its polical, social or economic dealings is preceived as threatening the existing status quo. there was an unspoken rule of "follow along or you will pay the price." many in this part of the world ], as weel as in international circles, are very much concern about the phenomenal Islamic revival, which is perceved as something that threatens the status of the quo. so, certian groups use their levrage in the media in order to create problems in a country like the Sudan, which they preceive, invorrectly, as being on an Islamic - only course.

What do you think the Sudan's primary role in Africa is today, and what you see it being in future years.?

The role of the Sudan today shouldn't be divorced from its role in the past and what it will be in the future: to serve as a bridge that brings Africa together with the Middle East and the Arab World.

Secondely, the Federal system that has been impleminted here in the Sudan is an example that can be of real use to other African countries because, like the Sudan many African conutries were once colonized countries and suffer from many problems related to their Colonail histories. The Sudan's federal system, which emphasizedes democratic principles, can serve as an example to other African countries so that they too can overcome their difficulties, Democracy is very important, but it also equallu important to recognize that Africa still has a long way to go. It's still very tibal, has a high level of illiteracy, and serious infrastructure problems. it's very important that the true essence of demogracy, which is participation, be observed and respected.

This is sometimes we should focus on, rather than focus on the multi- party notion - not because the multi - party notion wasn't successful in other countries, but because of it is not the form of the government that will allow African nations to overcome their problems. When we resort to multi - party governments, the result has been that the tribes and ethnic groups are encouraged to form separate and distnict parties - and then those parties usually choose not to interact and deliberate with people differant than themselves.

Sudan, Of course is the largest country in Africa and it borders nine other countries. What issues are of foremost concern to the Sudan and its neighbors?

We are doing our utmost to normalixe relations with our neighbors. We recognize that the conflict in Southern Sudan is an element in the difficulties in our relations with our neighbors, and becuase of that we have doubled our efforts to try to resolve the conflict inthe South and at the same time resolve the problems with our neighbors. We are very pleased that (South Africa) President Mandela, under the umbrella of IGAD, is working very closely with us in order to obtain solutions to both problems - with the rebels and with our neighbord.

The most serious problem we have now are with Uganda, Eritrea. But again, we are determined to normalize relations with these neighboring countries, and will continue to work very hard to see that our differences are resolved.

How do you see the relationship between the Sudan and the united states of America evolving in the future years?

It has been unfortunate that relations between Sudan and the United States have fallen victim to an unfair political and information campaign against the Sudan that has infuenced key decision makers in Washington. We have made great efforts to try to convince the U.S government that the allegations that have been made against the Sudan in the media simply aren't true. But the sheer size of the political and mis-information campaign against the Sudan has been so great that in many cases we did'nt have ability or the means to combat it.

We will continue encourage leaders from the U.S and other Westren countries to come to the Sudan so they can see for themselves that the allegations made against the Sudan are not true. Our genuine and continued efforts to improve our relations with the U.S in an indcation of how seriously we take oyr relationship.

and in fact that I chos my close adviser, Mahdi Ibrahim Mohamed, to be the Sudanese Ambassador to the United states is future indication of our goodwill. We will continue to try to engage the U.S because there is much about the Sudan that should be of interest to the United State.

What do you see as your legacy to the Sudan?

I hope it will be that our internal cinflicts were solved and that a lasting peace was estabished. If that were happen, this country would be catapulted forward, it would achieve stability, peace and normal relations with its neighbors. In short, peace will offer the Sudan a new beginning, hope, and chance to realize its full potential.

His Excellency George Knugor(Vice President)

A member of the Dinka tribe, the largest Sudanese tirbe in the South , H.E. Vice President George Kungor is a former police officer (he attained the rank of major General) and is one of the leading politicians in Southern Sudan. A former governor of the Bahr - Elgazal state, he was appointed by president Bashir to the vice Precedency on Feb.15,1994, and reappointed on April 21, 1996.?

The Chirstian people of Southern Sudan have waged a civil war against the Government of the Sudan. Now that peace seems to be at hand, what are the chances for a true and lasting peace.?

First of all, not all people in the South fight the Government, and the ongoing war that is about to end is not between Christian African Southerners and Muslims Arabs from the North, as has been reflectef by the mass media in the West.

Myself, I am a chirstian and a Souhtherner and I was chosen to become Vice President of the Sudan, and ther are many others like me who hold conistitutional positions at the federal and state levels.

With regard to the Government's efforts to obtain peace, President Bashir's adminstration has been serious and relentless in its efforts to obtain peace, and those efforts were rewarded with the signing of the April 21, 1997, Khartoum peace Agreement.

It is an agreement that guarantees all rights and fundamental liberties to every citizen of the Sudan, and guarntees for Southerners the right of political self - determination through a referandum four years from now. It also resolved the very important issue pertaining to the relationship between relegion and the state.

Even after the Peace Agreement was signed, the government has kept up its efforts through the IGAD (Inter - Governemntal Authority on Development) Organization, working with Kenyan President Daniel arop Moi, Preident Nelson Mandela of South Africa and other prominent leaders.

What else do you like about the Peace Agreement?

I'd like to add that the Peace Agreement is not limited to the South alone - it includes all states in the country, in both North and South. The agreement speaks of a balanced development and a just distribution of power and wealth and resolving problems by dialogue and negotiation. This Agreement is a 100 percent expression of the parties involved in the Sudan - no third - party was involved.

And I should not forget to mention that the problem of the Nuba Mountains region in Southern Kordufan also found a solution through a special agreement calling for the consent of all inhabitants of the region.

Besides youself, have leaders from the South been given prominent leadership positions in the country?

Yes, Southerners today are treated on the same basis of citizenship as Northerners, regardless of their relegion, color, or ethnic origion. Today there are many Southerners wha are federal ministers, and others who are misters, in the Northern states, and some who are governors.

The state Minister in the Foreign affairs Ministry is the Archbishop Gabriel Rourig , and he is a christian from Southern Sudan , The Federal Minster of Animal Wealth , Mussa El- mak Koor, is from the South, too.

The Minster of state in the Ministry of Federal Government is a Southerner and Riek Machar Teny -Dhurgaon, who signed the peace agreement and who is now President of the Coordinating Council of the Southern Sudan statesm is a prominent Southerner . And the list can go on and on.

As a matter of fact, all the chapters of Sudanese history clearley reveal that Southerners have always occupied leading positios - even at the level of the Supreme Court - in the Sudan, and last but not least my own case, since I am also from the South.

Another allegation usually made against the Government of the Sudan is that it persecutes against minority religions?.

What I have to say about that us, ask the people who say or write that there is religious perscution in Sudan wheather or not the in fact have ever visited Sudan before! . If they had, they would have seen how Muslims and Christians live in peace and harmony together. They would have also seen how mosques and churches are built in the same, peacful neighborhoods.

What is said about relegioud perscution has been promulgated by organizatins and /or information organs that have been perpetuated to coincide with the interests of forces hostile to the Sudan. In Africa, the Sudan is known to be a country that has hosted many international conferences on religous coexistance and understanding.

As I've said, what is important is that citizenship rights apply equally to all of Sudan's citizens, regardless of race or relegious affiliation.

To be Cont.,,

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