Sudan’s Bashir admits role in 1989 coup, could face death penalty

The ousted former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir on Tuesday acknowledged his full responsibility for the 1989 coup that overthrew the government of the late former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi at the time and installed him as the new leader.

But the long-term ruler of Sudan, who himself was ousted in April 2019, denied any role for civilians and military members of the Revolutionary Command Council in planning and implementing the seizure of power. The former president is currently serving a prison sentence for corruption.

Bashir and 15 officers of the armed forces and eight civilians from among the leaders of the Islamic Movement, appeared before a special court to face charges of masterminding a coup.

Death penalty

Under Sudanese law, the crimes carry the death penalty if one is found guilty of undermining the constitutional system and overthrowing the elected authority at that time. However, recent tradition has been that those found guilty of crimes punishable by death may be saved the hangman’s noose on age grounds. Sudan stopped, in practice, to hang people aged 70 and above. Instead, they serve their sentences in elderly people’s homes.

“I stand before this court, and I say with pride and dignity that I am the leader and bomber of the national salvation revolution, and I bear all responsibility for what happened in June 1989,” Bashir told the court.


He stated that he was following “with pleasure the indictment’s attempts” and its production of video clips to prove his involvement in the coup.

In his testimony, Bashir declared that all the accused members of the Revolutionary Command Council had no role in planning and implementing the seizure of power.

He also denied that civilians supported the military’s action: “It was a purely military action, and we did not need civilians to help us.”

Squalid conditions

He said the coup was inspired by the squalid conditions that the army was suffering from before they seized power.

Some cities had also fallen in the hands of the South Sudan rebels then led by the late Dr John Garang who would later lead the rebels to an autonomous administration.

Bashir indicated that the memorandum of the armed forces that was presented to the political leaders shortly before they seized power was the real downfall of the government at the time. 

“The memorandum of the armed forces explained the extent of the danger to the country as a result of the weakness that the army was suffering from, and the great shortage of mechanisms, ammunition and medicines, and that the ammunition used at that time, which the government obtained from some countries, was not able to be used by the soldiers because it did not match, and these are all examples of bad conditions,” he said.

He said the memorandum had given the government seven days to implement its provisions, but it was not fulfilled, and there was not much time to wait.

He emphasised that the army based its movement on Article 15 of the amended Constitution of  1965, which is the article that talks about “the protection and gains of the Rajab revolution are a trust with the armed forces.”

Boasted of achievements

Bashir boasted about the achievements he made during his rule in Sudan in the areas of infrastructure, roads and bridges, and the efforts made in developing the electricity sector, among others.

He said, “We have been running the country for more than 10 years with a budget of less than a billion dollars. Despite that, we were working on development and achieved many successes. We did not come out of love for power. We served our people and gave them what they deserve.”

Observers believe that Bashir’s confessions have a dimension and that they are a political act organised by the leaders of the former regime.

Tariq Osman, a Sudanese political analyst, told The East African that “the step is not improvised and it seems that there is a plan and agreement between members of the Brotherhood accused in the case that the statements are consistent with those who deny the charge and who confess to it, and it seems that the confession process was entrusted to Al-Bashir”.

“If the influential figures in the Brotherhood regime will be acquitted, this could be a step towards exploiting the fragile political situation to arrange the ranks and return the regime to the political scene again,” Tariq added.

Source:  The East African

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