July 14, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – A leading member of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) on Saturday expressed despair at finding a peaceful way to change the regime in Sudan, saying that dialogue with the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has become “difficult.”
- NUP leader Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi
Speaking at a media conference in the capital Khartoum, Mariam Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, NUP’s member and daughter of its leader Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, criticised the authorities for using tear gas and rubber bullets to break up peaceful protests, warning that if peaceful change is not allowed then violent change will come.
Mariam was referring to the violence with which security authorities have been confronting small but growing protests in various parts of the capital Khartoum and a few regional towns since the government moved, on 16 June, to lift fuel subsidies as part of what officials describe as an austerity program needed to make up for a budget deficit of $2.4 billion US created by the loss of three quarters of the country’s oil production due to South Sudan secession.
She stated that the “perpetuation of the status quo is the most dangerous threat to Sudan”, before admitting that dialogue with the NCP has become "difficult”. The opposition figure further added that peaceful political activities in Sudan are impossible and that change is inevitable.
NUP leader Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi has long advocated dialogue with the NCP to avoid what he often terms as chaotic scenarios in the event of a violent change. However this stance along with the fact that his own son, Abdel Rahman al-Mahdi, is serving as an adviser to President Omer Al-Bashir led many to speculation that Al-Mahdi may not be supportive of the goal of regime change.
In a related context, Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi issued a statement on Saturday casting the current protests as “legitimate expressions of discontent” against oppressive economic policies that make citizens bear the brunt of mistakes made by the government. Al-Mahdi stated that the protesters are exercising their constitutional rights.
He also called for the immediate release of all those detained during the protests or that they are charged before a court of law. Local human rights groups say more than 2,000 people have been arrested and some tortured in detention since the protests started.