REPORTS: al-Bashir’s escape planned


Government has denied weekend newspaper reports suggesting that the sudden departure of Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir, was the result of a carefully planned plot.

al-Bashir, who was attending a summit of the African Union in Sandton last week, abruptly left the country on June 15th after the Pretoria High Court has called for his arrest and handover to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide in Darfur.

According CityPress, a SMS sent to security officials on the Sunday before al-Bashir’s departure, instructs them to prepare for his escorting out of the country if the case proves to be successful against him.

The article states that al-Bashir’s private jet, which had been parked in a VIP hanger, was then hurriedly moved from the OR Tambo International Airport to the Waterkloof Air Force where the next day, after he had been rushed from the summit under blue lights, it took off after receiving clearance from the control tower.

It further alleges that al-Bashir’s bodyguards had doubled their firearm requirements for South Africa and that State Advocate William Mokhari only informed the court of the President’s departure, two hours after his plane left Waterkloof.

In a second version of events, the Sunday Times, quoting an unnamed senior official, alleges that a meeting attended by high ranking Ministers before the summit, was aimed at discussing ways to protect al-Bashir “even if it meant flouting court rulings and undermining the constitution”.

The official also stated that al-Bashir had been promised maximum security during his stay in the country, and that members of the Presidential Protection Unit had escorted him to Waterkloof after an apparent tipoff that the court was going to call for his arrest.

Acting Government Spokesperson, Phumla Williams, has however rejected the claims, saying that a report will be tabled to court once the matter has been finalised.

Speaking in a statement, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader, Mmusi Maimane, said that the various versions of events points to a “well-coordinated plot by the Presidency, in collusion with the Security Cluster, to facilitate his escape” and that the party plans on raising the matter in Parliament tomorrow.

“It cannot be right that domestic and international laws are flouted to protect an alleged war criminal and human rights violator while the government of President Zuma remains silent and avoids answering pertinent questions,” Maimane said, adding that the party had already asked Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to investigate the reports.

“Both the ANC and the AU have failed in their obligation to bring justice for the slaughter of 300,000 fellow Africans in Dafur, as well as the displacement of a further 2.5 million. This should be the priority of the organisation – not the protection of those with no regard for the rule of law, including a man wanted for genocide.”