Feb 24, 2007 (DETROIT) — Sudan’s president told attendees of the Nation of Islam’s national convention Friday that the United States is exaggerating troubles in his country’s volatile Darfur region so it can control the country as it has in Iraq.
President Omar al-Bashir was invited to speak via satellite at the three-day convention by representatives of longtime Nation leader Louis Farrakhan. Al-Bashir said he was using the address, which was scheduled for live broadcast on Sudanese television, to call on the mass media and American public to learn the truth about his country.
“A number of governments, including the U.S., are putting pressure (on Sudan),” he said. “They’re imposing solutions that don’t respect the dignity of our nation.”
More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million been chased from their homes in Darfur since 2003, when rebels from ethnic African tribes rose up against the central government.
A 7,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force has been trying to stop the ongoing violence in the region, but the force is underfunded and ill-equipped. Al-Bashir has rejected a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for 22,000 U.N. peacekeepers to replace the AU force.
He reiterated comments he made last week that he would not allow U.N. peacekeepers into his country. He suggested that Sudan could accept more African Union peacekeepers _ with U.N. support.
He said the AU force is “doing fantastically well” while the Security Council resolution would put “Sudan under the full mandate of foreign countries” and gives U.N. troops “the same position as coalition forces in Iraq.”
Al-Bashir said media reports of 400,000 casualties are false. He also denied reports of ethnic cleansing among tribes. He said Darfur is “quite calm,” and said its problems are limited to a small section in the region’s north.
The office of the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor in The Hague said Thursday he would disclose the names next week of suspects in Darfur atrocities and present judges with evidence linking them to war crimes.
The judges will have the power to issue warrants, but it remains to be seen if they can be executed. Sudanese authorities have not signed the international treaty that created the court and claim it has no jurisdiction in the country.
Farrakhan’s Chief of Staff Leonard Farrakhan Muhammad, who extended the invitation to al-Bashir, said after the speech it was an important message for Nation members and others to hear.
“Whatever happens in Africa is the business of black people,” he said. “Don’t you dare suggest this is beyond the business of the Nation of Islam.”
The conference ends Sunday with an address by Farrakhan at Ford Field, home of the National Football League’s Detroit Lions. The event is being billed as the final major address for the 73-year-old leader, who ceded leadership last year to an executive board because of illness.