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Sudan’s opposition coalition holds talks with NCP splinter faction

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February 15, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The leaders of Sudanese opposition coalition of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) held a meeting on Saturday with their peers in the Reform Now Party (RNP) which was formed late last year after it split with the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

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Ghazi Salah Al-Deen Al-Attabani (Reuters)

The meeting, which follows a series of talks held between the RNP and other political forces, agreed on the importance of removing restrictions on freedoms, stopping the war and the creation of the atmosphere for national dialogue in order to reach a comprehensive national reconciliation.

RNP leader Ghazi Salah al-Deen al-Attabani said in an interview with privately-owned Blue Nile TV that his party has no intention to return to the NCP nor join the Popular Congress Party (PCP) of Hassan al-Turabi.

Al-Attabani, who served as the presidential adviser and NCP parliamentary bloc leader, stressed that the recent government shakeup is "tactical" and "temporary" that falls short of reform.

Last December, Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir announced a cabinet reshuffle that saw the departure of several long-time NCP figures from their governmental posts including former vice-president Ali Osman Taha, presidential assistant and NCP vice-chairman Nafie Ali Nafie and Oil minister Awad al-Jaz.

Prior to that, the RNP head al-Attabani was expelled from the NCP with two other leading figures in the wake of a memo he drafted, along with more than two dozen party figures, calling for the reversal of a decision to lift fuel subsidies and putting an end to the violent measures taken against demonstrators who took to the streets to protest.

They also urged Bashir to form a mechanism for national reconciliation comprised of various political forces and assign the economic dossier to a professional national economic team.

“The legitimacy of your rule has never been at stake like it is today”, they said in a letter addressed to Bashir which was seen as a direct challenge to the president who is now the country’s longest-serving leader since its independence in 1956.

In a live address to the nation last month, Bashir announced a 4-point plan for reform "to stop the war and bring peace, free political society, fight against poverty and revitalize national identity", calling for political forces to engage in dialogue to agree on the implementation items.

Most major opposition parties criticized the lack of specifics in Bashir’s initiative but nonetheless expressed readiness to engage in dialogue with the NCP.

Last week, the NCF chairman Farouk Abu-Essa appeared critical of the PCP’s decision to enter into dialogue with the ruling party and suggested that the NCP is not serious and wants to buy time.

The representatives of the PCP at the NCF said their agreement to dialogue with the NCP is not open ended and that their divergence with the opposition coalition on this issue is "procedural" adding that the PCP will stipulate that the ruling party remove restrictions on freedom as a key issue.

The PCP will also insisted that it will not participate in the 2015 elections in its current form and allowing for the participation of the rebel coalition known as the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) and other political forces in the dialogue in preparation for installing a fully transitional status.

‘LIVING WITH VILLAINS’

Al-Attabani said that his party has a unique thesis that incorporates national priorities and concerns of constituents that have not been addressed by any other party including the NCP.

He stressed that he will not be an "immortal" leader of his own party adding that his leadership of the RNP was forced upon him because of what he called the foolishness of some NCP leaders towards them.

"They put us in a position in which we had to adopt another option," al-Attabani said.

The RNP leader emphasized that he does not need to return to the NCP and said that he now has the chance to be a historian and a writer which he said is a more enjoyable venture.

He went on to say that while he was not interested in any leadership position, he did not want to disappoint those who entrusted him.

The former NCP official described his experience in the political world as similar to living with "villains".

Al-Attabani said that while he is not hopeless on the situation, he said that all the experiences they went through with great hopes and aspirations did not materialize, especially applying the Islamic model as an active and strong one that could compete with others.

In response to the likelihood of his candidacy for the presidency in the 2015 elections al-Attabani said that they will cross the bridge when they reach it.

He boasted that the RNP has forced the concept of reform which has now become the talk of the political arena adding that his party is moving in a different way from the rest of the parties.

Al-Attabani revealed that they intend to contest in the next elections and predicted the evolution of a an entirely different state and political arena and that the parties will change from their current form should free and fair national elections be held.

When asked on the apparent convergence between the NCP and PCP, al-Attabani said that Turabi told him when they met that he realized that the dangers of political and security collapse are greater than ever before and that political responsibility requires him to be better able to engage in dialogue .

However he stressed that the essence of Turabi’s thinking did not depart from the political reform movement.

Turabi split from the NCP in 1999 following a bitter power struggle with Bashir. He was subsequently ousted from his post as parliament speaker.

He later established PCP and has since been a vociferous critic of the very regime for which he orchestrated the army-backed seizure of power in 1989.

(ST)

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