tough test for bashir

OMDURMAN - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir launched his re-election bid with great fanfare at the weekend, extolling his 21 years in power and pledging to the unity of Africa'00s biggest nation.

OMDURMAN - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir launched his re-election bid with great fanfare at the weekend, extolling his 21 years in power and pledging to the unity of Africa'00s biggest nation.

"When we came to power, everything was lacking and people spent long hours waiting for bread and petrol, but now it's the bread that awaits the people," Bashir told thousands of supporters in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman.

"We have done many things since coming to power, but we have not finished," Bashir added, touting the "benefits" of his economic policy.

Bashir, who, backed by Islamists, overthrew the democratically elected government of Sadiq al-Mahdi in 1989, also backed Sudan's unity in a referendum on the south's independence set for January 2011.

"In a year, there will be a referendum. And our programme is founded on the unity of Sudan. We will leave future generations a united Sudan, as it is currently," he said.

Bashir also accused unnamed foreign powers of working to "destroy" the peace agreement that ended a two-decade civil war in 2005 between the mainly Muslim north and mostly Christian south.

The veteran leader is sought by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region.

He faces his first real electoral test on April 11, when he is being challenged by 11 opposition candidates, among them former premier Mahdi and former rebel leader Yasser Arman, who also kicked off campaigning on Saturday. - Sapa-AFP

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