Africa

Sudan's Omar al-Bashir is sworn in as president

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been sworn into office again, following his controversial win in last month's elections.

President Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

Many international leaders stayed away from the inauguration but at least five African presidents attended the event.

The UN said it was sending the heads of the two UN peacekeeping missions in the country to the ceremony.

Taking the oath of office, President Bashir addressed parliament in Khartoum for around 30 minutes.

Presidents from Ethiopia, Chad, Malawi, Mauritania, and Djibouti were in the audience.

But the international rights organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) said governments committed to justice in Darfur should have stayed away from President Bashir's inauguration.

Ibrahim Ghandour, a senior figure in the president's National Congress Party, said HRW was wrong.

"The Sudanese people can see that Human Rights Watch is unfair to the Sudanese issues in general," he said ahead of the ceremony.

"I think that the first defeat is the fact that at least five presidents are attending the inauguration.

"And the second defeat came when the UN declared that it would be present at the inauguration of the new presidency term."

In his speech, President Bashir did not refer to the court, but he did promise development, and to solve Darfur's problems.

In its annual report, Amnesty International said widespread abuses were continuing in Darfur, although the conflict was less intense than in previous years.

In a BBC interview, Amnesty Africa specialist Noel Kututwa denied that the swearing-in showed that the ICC was ultimately powerless.

"It delays justice, but it doesn't make the organisation ineffective," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Last month's elections, the first multi-party polls in 24 years, have been recognised internationally, despite their flaws.

The BBC's James Copnall in Khartoum says this may have boosted President Bashir's legitimacy somewhat, but he is still clearly not to everyone's taste.

Mr Bashir faces a momentous few months, he says.

In January, southerners will vote on possible independence, the consequence of a peace deal that ended a long civil war.

President Bashir is calling for unity, but there is little doubt the south will split away if there is a free vote.

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