Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has said his country is open to dialogue with the West, in his inaugatory address after securing re-election in the presidential election.
“Sudan will seek, God willing, and with an open heart, to continue dialogue with Western countries in order for relations to return to normal,” Bashir told parliament after a swearing-in ceremony attended by regional African and Arab leaders.
The unusually conciliatory message on Tuesday came from a leader who is wanted on genocide charges and whose country has suffered from years of economic sanctions.
Sudan has long laboured under a raft of UN and bilateral sanctions, including from the US.
Bashir also faces charges at the International Criminal Court that he masterminded genocide and other atrocities in his campaign to crush a revolt in the Darfur region. He has denied all the charges.
US companies are banned from doing business with Africa’s biggest country, although China and other investors have been quick to make up the shortfall.
Bashir, who has kept a strong power base in the army and remains popular among many segments of the population, urged opposition parties in his speech on Tuesday to join a “national dialogue” he said would begin in the coming days.
He also renewed a general amnesty for armed groups who “truly desire to return and participate in dialogue”.
Sudan has faced a rebellion in its Darfur region since 2003 and a separate but linked rebellion in Blue Nile and South Kordofan since the secession of South Sudan in 2011.
Bashir’s Western critics complain of a crackdown on media, civil society and political opposition groups.