AFRICANGLOBE – Khartoum, Sudan goes to the polls Monday in sham presidential and parliamentary elections widely expected to return dictator Omar al-Bashir to power for another five years.
The mainstream opposition is boycotting the vote, in which more than a dozen little-known candidates are standing against the incumbent, who has been at the helm for a quarter century.
First Years In Power
On June 30, 1989, army brigadier Bashir seized power in a takeover backed by Islamist ideologue Hassan al-Turabi — the last in a series of coups that marked Sudan after its independence from joint British and Egyptian rule in 1956.
Turabi hosted radical Islamists, including Osama bin Laden, who was based in Khartoum until 1996.
Increasingly alarmed by Sudan’s support for extremists, Washington slapped Sudan with sanctions.
A power struggle within the country’s leadership erupted in 1999 and Bashir forced Turabi from the ruling circle.
Genocide In Darfur
Sudan, already locked in a war with southern rebels since 1983, saw a new conflict emerge in 2003 in the western region of Darfur.
Ethnic insurgents rebelled against the government, complaining of marginalisation.
The still-unresolved conflict, which has since degenerated to include tribal infighting and banditry, has killed some 300,000 people and displaced nearly 2.5 million, the United Nations says.
The International Criminal Court indicted Bashir in 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, and a year later for genocide.
Peace With The South
After the 22-year north-south civil war that killed two million people and displaced another four million, Khartoum signed a peace treaty in 2005 with southern rebels led by John Garang.
The agreement stipulated that a referendum be held in 2011 that led to the south declaring independence.
In April 2010, Bashir was elected in the first contested vote since his coup, but voting was marred by an opposition boycott and accusations of irregularities.
South Sudan Becomes Independent
On July 9, 2011, South Sudan declared independence.
Around the same time the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North launched a campaign against the Khartoum government in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
War For Oil
In spring 2012, fighting broke out along the border between Sudan and the south, particularly around the key oil-producing area of Heglig.
With South Sudan’s split, Sudan lost around three quarters of its oil reserves, while the land-locked south relied on Khartoum’s oil infrastructure.
South Sudan shut off oil production for more than a year, hitting the economies of both countries badly.
Deadly Street Demonstrations
Facing tough economic conditions, Khartoum lifted petrol subsidies in autumn 2013, causing prices to rocket by nearly 60 percent and sparking widespread public anger.
Security forces responded brutally to demonstrations in the capital. Amnesty International said more than 200 people were gunned down, while the government put the toll at 60 to 70.
Bashir Calls For Dialogue
In January 2014, Bashir announced a “national dialogue” to right Sudan’s faltering economy and end its conflicts.
Promising greater political and press freedom, Bashir invited the opposition to attend. In March he was seen in public with Turabi for the first time in 14 years.
Opposition groups initially welcomed the call but have grown increasingly sceptical as the talks failed to materialise, with Bashir insisting they will begin after the elections.