Sudanese foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour has denied his government used chemical weapons against its citizens, dismissing allegations as “a joke.”
In October 2016, Amnesty called for an international investigation into “dozens of suspected chemical weapons attacks against civilian populations over the past nine months” in Jebel Marra, citing “credible evidence of horrific injuries and estimates of up to 250 deaths.”
Speaking to Talk To Al Jazeera’s James Bays this weekend, Ghandour said, “We don’t use chemical weapons against our citizens. If that has ever happened, it is very easy to tell… Those organisations are looking for finance.”
Ghandour similarly dismissed claims that Sudan has cluster munitions; that politicians involved in the National Dialogue had been harassed or arrested; that journalists are being jailed; or that there are 2.6m displaced people in Sudan.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir in 2009 for alleged war crimes. He was also the first person to be charged by the ICC for genocide.
But Bashir is now traveling widely across Africa and to India, seemingly unconcerned by the threat of arrest. Ghandour said Bashir will never appear before the ICC, because Sudan did not ratify the Rome Treaty and because of the hypocrisy of the UN Security Council being able to refer non-signatory countries to the ICC, while retaining veto power for the US, Russia and China to protect themselves.
“Not a single Sudanese will go to the ICC Court,” Ghandour said. “That was a political accusation. We know the ICC is a political organ of the EU. This is a court that has been formed and built to indict Africans. This is why you find all those leaders who have been accused and indicted are African leaders, while we see crimes everywhere and no one is indicted.”
Ghandour claimed, “There is peace right now in Darfur” and called for the implementation of an exit strategy for the UN peacekeeping force there, UNIMAD. “The UN spends on UNIMAD annually $1.3 billion. If that was given to the government of Sudan, it could have changed the whole of Darfur into not only a peaceful settlement but abolished the reason of the fight, which is drought. There are other areas in the world that need peacekeepers,” he said.
When asked about the imminent end to the ceasefire in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, he said, “We are much closer than ever and we hope that this will end the conflict in the two areas… We believe there is no solution but a political solution.”
He said the fact that 75% of South Sudan’s more than a million refugees are in Sudan is a sign of how stable his country is. “The areas we are talking about are on our border with South Sudan and no one will move from an area where there is a fight to an area that is insecure.”
He expressed his concern over the recent unrest in South Sudan. “We are very much worried because we believe that there is no peace in Sudan without peace in South Sudan and vice versa,” he added. “Whatever happens in South Sudan will affect us directly.”
He criticized those who had pushed for South Sudan’s independence, saying Sudan had warned them “the separation of South Sudan may be a premature decision.” But while he said, “This is now going on the wrong path,” he also expressed confidence that “we are quite sure that our brothers in the South can do better with the help of everyone in the region.”
Sudan is sheltering South Sudan’s former vice president Riek Machar, but Ghandour denied they were supporting him. “Machar is in Khartoum for treatment and he is leaving Khartoum very soon. Khartoum will not be used as a springboard for any military action against the government of South Sudan.”
He ended the interview expressing his optimism about Sudan’s future. “If a country was capable to stop the longest war in Africa, we are capable of reaching a final peace. We are much nearer than many expect. We are on the shores of a peaceful settlement for everything in Sudan. I can see a better future for the coming generation.”
Watch and embed the full 25-minute interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BZs7BuWtRs.