By Laura Smith-Spark and Briana Duggan, CNN
- He will “participate actively” at the summit in Saudi Arabia, senior Sudanese lawmaker says
- The Trump administration has disavowed Bashir’s invitation by Saudi officials
(CNN)Sudan’s controversial President Omar al-Bashir is due to attend a summit in Saudi Arabia that will bring together US President Donald Trump and leaders of Muslim majority nations, a senior Sudanese lawmaker said Wednesday.
Bashir, who’s led his country for almost three decades, has been charged with crimes against humanity, including genocide, by the International Criminal Court related to the Darfur conflict in Sudan in 2010.
But he denies the charges, has yet to cooperate with the court and continues to travel freely around the continent, including to South Africa and Uganda, which have been criticized for not turning him in.
The Trump administration has disavowed Bashir’s invitation.
“We oppose invitations, facilitation, or support for travel by any person subject to outstanding (International Criminal Court) arrest warrants, including President Bashir,” a senior State Department official said.
Bashir was invited to the summit by the government of Saudi Arabia and will attend and “participate actively,” said Rabie Abdul Atti, a senior member in the ruling National Congress Party in Sudan.
“On his agenda for the summit will be the removal of sanctions finally which were imposed by the US on Sudan. Also on the top of the agenda is to how to combat and how to fight terrorism,” Atti said.
“What we know is that President Bashir and President Trump will be in the same conference hall, but we don’t know whether he will meet President Trump,” he added.
Trump is set to depart Friday for Saudi Arabia on his first foreign trip as President. He is scheduled to go on to Israel, the Vatican, Belgium and Sicily, Italy.
Darfur conflict at issue
Sudan is one of six Muslim-majority countries whose citizens were barred from entering the United States under Trump’s second executive order on immigration.
Its development has been beset by ongoing conflicts, most notably the Darfur conflict, which began around 2003, when several rebel groups took up arms against the government in Khartoum. They fought over land and historical marginalization, which continues today.
In response, the government’s counterinsurgency strategy targeted the opposition groups but reportedly expanded to target tribes associated with the insurgents.
The violence escalated into a war, and in 2008, the UN estimated that 300,000 people may have died in the Darfur conflict, although experts say that figure likely has risen since then.
The conflict is not entirely over. The Sudanese government was accused last year of using chemical weapons against the people of Darfur, according to a report released by Amnesty International, which said the attacks may constitute a war crime. The government dismissed the allegations as “rumors.”
Weeks earlier, the Obama administration had welcomed Sudan’s efforts to counter ISIS and other terrorist groups, even though the United States for 20 years has designated Sudan a state sponsor of terrorism.
The US State Department then announced in January, a week before Trump took office, that it would ease certain sanctions against Sudan in response to progress in reducing conflict in Darfur and two other areas, in allowing humanitarian access to the country, and in helping US efforts to combat ISIS and other terror groups.