x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Uncertainty worries local Sudanese

Sudanese residents of the UAE speak of fears for their families back home.

Sudanese residents of the UAE spoke yesterday of fears for their families back home as television news channels showed defiant crowds gathering on the streets of Khartoum in support of President Omar al Bashir. His arrest has been ordered by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. At the same time, rebel groups welcomed the court's move, which was announced on Wednesday in connection with the conflict in the Sudanese region of Darfur, which has gone on for six years. The UN estimates that 300,000 people have died in the conflict and millions more have been displaced. The concerns of the expatriates were summed up by Nazar Musa, a Sudanese businessman based in Dubai. "My family is in Sudan and it is certainly worrying with the leader of the state being charged with criminal offences," he said. "There is so much instability and the country is in a delicate position." Mr Musa described the ruling as "unprecedented" and questioned the motive: "I don't know if the charges are true or not. However, what I do know is that a democratically elected head of state is being charged and this would not have happened if it were a western country." The diplomatic machinery also swung into action yesterday, with the Sudanese consulate in Dubai announcing that Essam Awad, the consul general, would address a meeting of media and community leaders tomorrow on the ICC decision, the political situation in Sudan and the prospects for peace there. Leading Sudanese businessmen and other community leaders in the UAE would also discuss the matter, officials said. "We will receive orientation from Khartoum after which we will speak at the event on Saturday," said Mohamed Mohamed Khair, the information attaché for the consulate. Sudanese callers at the consulate watched intently as television screens showed President Bashir addressing the crowds in Khartoum and dismissing the ICC charges as a "conspiracy". "We don't know what this means for Sudan," said one visitor who did not wish to be named. "It is very disturbing and unnecessary. We already have enough problems." Other Sudanese expatriates expressed their support for Mr Bashir. "There are so many countries with problems and why have they not charged any of them?" asked Sabir Fadl Elmula, who lives in Dubai. "This is a double standard set by big countries because we are an African nation." He said he hoped the conflict would be resolved by Arab and African nations. Stating his government's position, Mr Khair said: "We do not recognise the ICC. Sudan is not a member of this court and we question the legitimacy of this ruling." He claimed that much of the international media coverage of the Darfur crisis was false. "There are problems like lack of electricity, water and other amenities and we know there are rebels carrying guns," Mr Khair said. "However, the government has confronted them and tried to solve the problems. The accusation of rape has been denied by the government, and no one can prove all this." He called for support from the Arab region and expressed confidence that most of the world would follow, saying: "We are expecting support from the all countries of the world except the US, UK and France." Meanwhile, an aircraft carrying 40 tonnes of medical and relief supplies from the UAE Red Crescent Authority landed yesterday in Al Fasher, the capital of West Darfur, as part of efforts to ease the humanitarian situation there, the state news agency, WAM, reported. pmenon@thenational.ae