May 1, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The leader of the National Umma Party (NUP), Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi, moved the meeting of the party’s Central Commission, which started on Thursday, to remove secretary-general Ibrahim al-Amin amid signs of a new split within the party.
- Former Sudanese Prime Minister and leader of the National Umma Party (NUP) al-Sadiq al-Mahdi (AFP)
In his lengthy opening remarks attended by representatives from other parties including the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and foreign diplomats, Al-Mahdi defended this move saying that Al-Amin has failed to discharge his duties and was unable to create a consensual secretariat.
The NUP chief tabled three names to replace Al-Amin including head of the Political Secretariat Sara Nugdalla, politburo member Al-Tahir Harbi and head of NUP in North Darfur Mohamed Adam Abdel-Karim.
Nugdulla is widely believed to be the winner given Al-Mahdi’s strong backing for her.
"I never interfered in the nomination process or the vote but now I have to," Al-Mahdi said before calling for reaching consensus on one candidate
"Everyone who holds responsibility in the Umma Party is aware that I am committed to his or her freedom to fully exercise their functions. However, freedom is not absolute but carries a responsibility. Among the most important duties of responsibility is that if there is a leader who finds that his opinion is not consistent with the stated policy of the party then he either has to resign or work within the party’s apparatus to change it, but to try it in front of public opinion is not [an option]" he added.
Last Sunday, Al-Amin held a press conference in which he directed implicit criticism to Al-Mahdi accusing him of undermining his work.
He also spoke of two “schools” within the party, one of them sees the need for engaging in dialogue with the ruling NCP, and the other which is comprised of youths and students who strongly reject dialogue and calls for toppling the regime and establishing a democratic alternative.
Al-Amin has boycotted today’s meeting amid reports that he refuses to recognize any move to oust him given that the current term of the Central Commission has expired since a year ago and therefore it is an interim one with no mandate except to prepare for the party’s General convention which has its main task to elect members of the NUP various bodies.
It is not clear what steps Al-Amin might take in response to his removal but some sources at the NUP suggested to Sudan Tribune that he may establish a parallel secretariat body in defiance.
The NUP chief, who was also Sudan’s last democratically elected Prime Minister in 1986, is being increasingly viewed by the party’s base and even some of the leading figures as seeking rapprochement with the NCP.
Despite initially distancing himself from his eldest son’s Abdel-Rahman decision in 2011 to become president Omer Hassan al-Bashir’s assistant, Al-Mahdi later praised his son’s qualifications to fill this role.
Abdel-Rahman’s appointment drew strong criticism from the NUP supporters and fueled speculations that al-Mahdi has forged a secret deal with the ruling party.
Al-Mahdi has consistently been critical in recent years of the opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) of which his party is a member and publicly questioned their ability to remove the regime.
He also frequently stated that he seeks to reform the NCP-led regime and not topple it warning that this could trigger a civil war.
‘JEALOUS PEOPLE WANT ME TO LEAVE’
Al-Mahdi also rebuffed calls for him to step down describing those behind it as "jealous" who seek to destroy the party and specifically referred to newspaper columnists "who worked to back the totalitarian regime".
"They know how much this [my departure] hurts the Umma Party. But I am trying to obtain a land and register it in the name of the party and build [new HQ on it], and to get an investment deposit to finance the party [along] with the contributions of the members," he said.
"[When this happens] then [my] hands can be lifted off the institution and I am committed to achieving it, God willing. But those who want me to get my hands off before [achieving that], do not want to good to our party exactly like those who want to send me to retirement because I am the most active intellectually and politically," al-Mahdi added.
On Wednesday, Al-Mahdi’s cousin Mubarak Al-Fadil who defected from the party before returning later sent a public letter to the NUP head urging him to step down to give room to a new generation and play a symbolic role in the background.
"You well remember that after returning [from exile] in 2000, I had indicated to you that the reality of the situation in our country and the inevitability of change requires you to reshape your political role after spending 44 years at the helm of the Umma Party in order to give way for new generations to assume executive leadership in the party while you play a leadership role needed by the political arena and rise above the political fray. This is the same role that was played by Imam Abdel-Rahman al-Mahdi [Party founder] through which he attained the greatest achievement in the modern history of Sudan, namely the independence of Sudan," Al-Fadil said in his letter.
"We have been following what is taking place inside the Umma Party in the form of a movement as throes for the birth of a new dawn in our party that renews the generation’s blood in the leadership in light of an acute polarisation between parental authority and governance of institutions, at a time when the parental authority should take into account both the transformation process required under the troubled national reality experienced by our country which requires bringing together the party and national rank rather than resist it and stand against the wheel of history," he wrote.
"Our bases in the marginalized [areas] have come under great duress; they were eaten away by war and weakened by poverty and disease….Let it be the simplest thing we can offer them after they have been giving us everything precious and valuable is to turn the page of strife and to take advantage of this political movement engulfing our party as a chance to rearrange our ranks" he added.
Mubarak presented a proposal in his letter that calls for a comprehensive reconciliation among all party factions and acknowledging that that the existing party apparatus’ term has expired over a year ago and form transitional bodies that reflect reconciliation in order to prepare the party for the eighth General Convention.
Al-Fadil defected from the NUP in 2002 and formed the Umma Reform and Renewal Party (URRP). Hel was of the view that the NUP should take part in the government while al-Mahdi rejected any participation in a non-democratically elected government.
The two meni exchanged bitter accusations with each other during the years 2002-2003. He was appointed as a presidential adviser for economic affairs in 2002. Several members of his newly created part were also appointed in various positions in the government.
He was sacked in 2004 after a dispute with Bashir and was arrested in 2007 with a number of retired army generals and accused of attempting to stage a coup but was released five months later after it was revealed that the evidence against him and others was fabricated.
Al-Fadil disbanded his breakaway group and rejoined the NUP in January 2011. The two men appeared to have normalized their relationship briefly before differences emerged and they renewed their personal attacks on each other.