Omar al-Bashir

Position: President, Sudan

Biography: Omar al-Bashir has been president of Sudan since 1993. He first came to power as prime minister following in a coup in 1989, in the middle of a civil war between the north and south that dated back to 1955.

Although Al-Bashir helped negotiate the end of the civil war in 2005, his time in power has been marred by bloodshed, in particular the ongoing conflict in Darfur, for which the International Criminal Court at the Hague indicted him of war crimes and crimes against humanity in March 2009. On 9 January 2011, southern Sudan will vote on whether to secede from the north – the right to stage a referendum was part of the 2005 peace deal.

Al-Bashir has long fought to keep a unified Sudan and with the poll expected to result in overwhelming support for separation, how the president responds will be determine whether Sudan is plunged back into civil war.