The Zimbabwean government and the Sudanese Embassy in Harare have vehemently denied that ousted Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir has been flown to Zimbabwe and been given political asylum as news reports in the Zimbabwe media speculate over the issue.
The Daily News reported on Saturday that last Tuesday Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa hired a private jet which flew him from Abu Dhabi to Zimbabwe, landing in Harare in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
However, on the way the jet made a curious stop in Sudan late Tuesday evening – despite a no-fly zone imposed in Khartoum by the military – fuelling speculation as to whether Bashir or his family could have been flown into exile in Zimbabwe.
The Boeing 737-700 IGW, which stopped in Khartoum for just over an hour, had been summoned by Mnangagwa to fly him home from Abu Dhabi to attend the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair which was officially opened by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday.
Last week Uganda’s government said it would offer Bashir political asylum.
Conveniently, Zimbabwe is not a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Countries which are not signatories are in a position to ignore extradition requests, raising the distinct possibility that Zimbabwe could welcome fugitive Bashir who is wanted by the ICC for war crimes.
The arrival of the flight in Harare in the early hours of the morning would also make it harder for the jet to be intercepted.
A possible stop in Khartoum for the jet to be refueled has been ruled out because this particular aircraft can fly to Harare from Abu Dhabi on a full tank with great ease, especially with no passengers on-board. The jet can fly up to 6,000 nautical miles or 11,000km nonstop.
As the news of a possible asylum deal started spreading the Sudanese embassy in Harare on Friday denied any knowledge about any such deal.
“We don’t have any information about that,” said an embassy spokesperson. “Bashir is in Khartoum, his family is also in Khartoum. He is sick, he is facing treason charges. I don’t think so.”
When the spokesperson was pressed as to how it was possible that the private jet had landed in Khartoum despite a no-flight zone imposed by the Transitional Military Council (TMC) the spokesperson denied any flights had landed and said Bashir was in prison.
He then added that if any flights had indeed landed the TMC would be in trouble. It still remains unclear, however, as to why the no-flight zone ruling was lifted for Mnangagwa.
Zimbabwe spokesperson George Charamba also vehemently denied any such incident taking place.
Meanwhile, the TMC is denying rumours that some of the former figures in Bashir’s regime who were recently arrested have been released, saying they are still incarcerated and being investigated.