5 November 2012

Sudan's President in Saudi Arabia for Medical Checkup

Photo: UN Photo/Marco Castro
Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir.

London — The president of Sudan, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, flew to Saudi Arabia on Monday to receive a medical checkup, state media has reported, stoking speculations about the health of the 68-year-old ruler.

President Omar al-Bashir "will carry out ordinary medical check-ups during the visit," during the trip which will also include meetings the top officials including King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, according to presidential news bulletin seen by Sudan Tribune.

In August it was reported that Bashir underwent surgery on his vocal chords in Qatar. The spokesperson of the presidential palace, Imad Said Ahmad, confirmed the reports late last month saying that Al-Bashir had undergone a "mild" throat but he also insisted that the president enjoys good health.

The news about Bashir's health has also led to widespread speculation across the social media platforms. The rumor was fueled by the fact that he has made few public appearances and speeches lately.

It was also observed that Al-Bashir failed to address dozens of his supporters who gathered in front of the council of ministers in Khartoum two weeks ago to rally against the alleged Israeli attack on Al-Yarmook military factory. He merely waved his hand while his deputy Vice-President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha addressed the crowd.

Media counsellor at the Sudan embassy in London, Khalid al-Mubarak, told Sudan Tribune on Monday that there has been "full transparency" about Bashir's trip, which was discussed on Sudan TV. He explained that Sudan's state minister at the presidency, Amin Hassan Omer, said that the president suffered from persistent throat inflammation and that he was advised to reduce long public speeches. The president looked fit until he left. He did not cancel a single appointment and is planning a visit to Juba to consolidate relations.

Al-Bashir's Juba visit comes in the wake of agreements on cooperation signed by Juba and Khartoum in September. Bashir was originally scheduled to visit Juba in April but a deterioration in relations made the trip untenable.

Khalid also claimed that Bashir "neither smokes nor drinks."

State minister Omer criticized the presidency of the republic, in an interview with the London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat on Monday, for failing to take the initiative to speak about the president's health condition. He said that by doing so the presidency opened the door for rumors.

He also revealed that Al-Bashir did not abide by the instructions of doctors to stop public addresses during medication period therefore his health condition suffered a setback and prompted further restrictions on his schedule and activities.

Al-Bashir has ruled Sudan since a military coup in 1989. In 2009 he became the first sitting head of state to be issued with an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Darfur conflict, which according to the UN, at the end of 2011 led to the internal displacement of 2.2 million people from the area.

The ICC ruling has restricted Bashir to traveling to non-signatories to the Rome Statute, which includes Saudi Arabia. Elsewhere in the world he risks implementation of the warrant and potentially trial at the Hague.

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