November 15, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The leader of Sudan’s Islamist opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP), Hassan Al-Turabi, issued a letter on Thursday distancing his party from the Islamic Movement (IM) conference being held in Khartoum, and telling foreign Islamist participants that it is a charade designed by the country’s rulers to monopolize Islamism and exclude him.
- Sudan’s Islamist opposition leader, Hassan al-Turabi, addresses the media in Khartoum following his release on 5 January 2012 after more than three months in jail. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Al-Turabi’s letter, of which Sudan Tribune obtained a copy, accused the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) of concocting the conference to monopolize the intellectual current of Islamism while genuine Islamists are excluded and languishing in prisons as political detainees.
The letter brooded on the experience of Islamists in ruling Sudan since the 1989 military coup which Al-Turabi masterminded brought Sudan’s current president and NCP leader Omer Al-Bashir to power, and until Al-Turabi was ousted from the NCP following a power struggle with Al-Bashir ten years later and went to form the PCP, becoming one of the government’s most outspoken critics.
The veteran Islamist assigned the blame for the corrupt practices and repression that characterized the period before his divorce with the NCP on the military wing of Islamists and the rest of whom he described as the hypocritical politicians who sought their own personal gains.
Al-Turabi declared that he is repudiating the “alleged” Islamic Project of the NCP saying “he knows of no intellectual, political or ethical connections [between the conference] and what can be truly ascribed to Islam”.
The PCP leader said that the genesis of his disagreement with the NCP is that the latter’s military leaders were against certain freedoms including that of the press and political parties. He also added that their military ethos led them to crackdown on dissenters and become immersed in corruption.
The IM, which was created by the NCP following the 1999 schism with Al-Turabi in order to serve as a parallel and broader political base to support the Islamist orientation of the regime and rally Sufi and radical Islamist groups under its umbrella, launched its 8th General Conference at the Friendship Hall in Khartoum yesterday with the participation of 4,000 members and prominent foreign Islamists including Khalid Mishal, the leader of the Palestinian militant organization Hamas, and Rashid al-Ghannushi, the leader of Tunisia’s Ennahda Movement.
In the letter, which was mainly addressed to foreign participants, as confirmed to Sudan Tribune by the PCP’s secretary of external relations Bashir Adam Rahama, Al-Turabi encouraged Islamists across the world to take lessons from the Sudanese experience and what he described as his students’ disavowal of Islamic values.
Al-Turabi also accused NCP leaders of violating the rights of refugees and failing to defend the causes of Muslims.
“This was a duty that was carried out at first but those [NCP leaders] turned against it and extradited Islamist refugees to those who killed them and expelled the rest”, he said in reference to the fact that during his time in power in the 1990s the Sudanese regime provided sanctuary to prominent Islamists like Al-Qaeda leader Osman Bin Ladin and Rashid al-Ghannushi.
Addressing the opening session of the IM conference, al-Ghannushi acknowledged and praised the support he received from Sudan at that time. He said he will never forget that Sudan received him and gave him refuge at a time of hardship.
Local press reports suggested that the Tunisian Islamist is going to propose an initiative during the conference to reconcile the NCP and the PCP. In his speech, al-Ghannushi urged Sudan’s Islamists to be “united” in order to confront challenges.
Sudan’s President Omer Al-Bashir also attended the opening session of the conference and delivered a brief speech. The speech, which lasted for only four minutes and did not touch on any political issues, mainly focused on giving advices to the attendants to spread Islamic values and keep resisting secular and communist ideologies.
He also called on Islamists to resist tribalism before concluding with a Quranic verse urging people to ensure a good end to their lives before meeting their God.
Al-Bashir has recently undergone two medical operations abroad and recovered, according to state media, from a “benign” tumor in his throat. Officials say he has been advised by doctors to reduce public speeches.