May 18, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) declared that the leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP), al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, was not arrested for political or security reasons but summoned to complete investigations over a criminal complaint filed by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) this week.
- Sudan’s National Umma Party (NUP) leader al-Sadiq al-Mahdi (AFP)
Al-Mahdi was questioned before state security prosecutors on Thursday regarding remarks he made accusing Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of committing serious abuses in conflict zones in Darfur and Kordofan including rape as well as looting and burning villages.
The veteran politician and former prime minister was taken into custody on Saturday night from his house and sent to the notorious Kober prison in Khartoum.
Al-Mahdi’s lawyer, Satie’ al-Hag, said his client faces charges of undermining the constitutional order and using force against the regime, saying those charges are punishable by death if convicted.
NCP spokesperson Yasser Yussef was quoted by state media as saying that new charges were filed against al-Mahdi that would not allow him to be released by personal recognizance.
Nonetheless, Yussef said that because of his age, status and national contributions al-Mahdi was not held in regular police docks but sent to Kober prison which he said offers better conditions until he is referred to court.
He noted that al-Mahdi repeated his allegations against the RSF, stressing that the NCP wished that things would not reach this stage.
The NCP spokesperson emphasised that the armed forces and national security institutions should be respected and kept away from political bickering.
The RSF militia, which is widely known as the Janjaweed militias, were originally mobilised by the Sudanese government to quell the insurgency that broke out in Sudan’s western region of Darfur in 2003.
The militia was activated and restructured again in August last year under the command of NISS to fight rebel groups in Darfur region, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states following joint attacks by Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebels in North and South Kordofan in April 2013.
Sudanese officials say the RSF is part of the NISS but operationally follow the army.
The NUP chief noted out that the Sudanese security apparatus violates the constitution by establishing militias even though its mandate is limited to gathering and analysing intelligence.
He went on to say his remarks were based on factual information he obtained from sources in the region as well as from records of 220 police complaints filed by the locals in the towns of El-Obeid and Abu-Zabad in North Kordofan state.
The former Prime Minister came under fire from Sudanese lawmakers this week who said his remarks amount to treason and belittling the armed forces.
The NUP leading figure and al-Mahdi’s daughter, Mariam said her father went through lengthy interrogation since Sunday morning, adding that she does not know the outcome of those investigations.
She disclosed that an NUP delegation met with the head of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), Thabo Mbeki, and informed him of the party’s decision to suspend participation in the national dialogue process and conditions for its resumption.
Mariam claimed that Mbeki expressed disappointment for al-Mahdi’s arrest and revealed ongoing efforts on his part to meet him in the prison.
The NUP secretary-general, Sara Nugdalla, read to reporters on Sunday a message sent by al-Mahdi from his prison in which he announced suspension of his party’s participation in the national dialogue.
He pointed to a statement he made on Thursday in which he said that government’s aggression wouldn’t dissuade him from seeking political solution, stressing he will not deal with the situation impulsively.
“However, the aggression of some government institutions against us and procedures imposed upon us by government hawks make us review the whole situation in order to determine requirements of the political solution and ways for achieving them”, he added
In his statement, al-Mahdi said that as of late many accused him of "selling the cause" after his son Abdel-Rahman became president Omer Hassan al-Bashir assistant "even though he does not represent me or the party in this [position].
He pointed out that his move towards national dialogue with the regime is another reason that made people think he is appeasing the NCP.
"But what I am subjected to from aggression is the [godly] means to clear my position of any suspicion, and enforce our viewpoint to become a station of popular political consensus," al-Mahdi wrote.
The NUP leader called upon opposition forces to form a wide alliance including all political and civil forces in order to demand allowing public freedoms.
Nugdalla, for her part, directed harsh criticism at the government and the NCP, saying arrest of al-Mahdi reveals the true face of the regime and its position toward democracy.
She emphasized that al-Mahdi’s statements with regard to the RSF reflect the position of the NUP, announcing mobilisation among its religious wing, Ansar sect in order to confront the oppression.
The NUP deputy chairman, Fadlallah Burma Nasser, described the detention of Al-Mahdi as “setback” for the national dialogue, particularly as the latter’s strategy for resolving issues through dialogue can’t be implemented in an atmosphere of mistrust and oppression.
He added that dialogue would only be held when its requirements are met, pointing to the need for creating environment conducive for dialogue and building trust among the Sudanese people without exclusion.
The representative of the Arab Ba’ath Party (ABP) at the opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (NCF), Mohamed Diaa Al-din, called upon opposition parties which agreed to take part in the national dialogue to follow the lead of the NUP and suspend their participation, saying it is a good opportunity to unify the opposition forces in order to overthrow the regime.
But the PCP’s political secretary, Kamal Omer Abdel-Salam, told Sudan Tribune that his party won’t suspend its participation in the dialogue despite its strong rejection of Al-Mahdi’s detention, disclosing ongoing contacts with the NCP to contain the crisis between the NUP and NISS.
He said his party agreed to take part in the dialogue because it is fully convinced it is the only way for resolving Sudan’s crisis, underscoring that the NUP is an important component of the dialogue process.
Abdel-Salam further demanded immediate release of al-Mahdi, urging the government not to deal with the latter by reactions.
He pointed that enticements between the NCP and the NUP wouldn’t push forward the national dialogue, saying the government could have responded to al-Mahdi’s accusations through the media instead of arresting him.
Last January, Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir called on political parties and armed groups to engage in a national dialogue to discuss four issues, including ending the civil war, allowing political freedoms, fighting against poverty and revitalising national identity.
He also held a political roundtable in Khartoum last month with the participation of 83 political parties. The opposition National Umma Party (NUP) and the PCP are the only major opposition parties to accept Bashir’s call for national dialogue so far.
The NCF boycotted the political roundtable, saying the government did not respond to its conditions.
The NCF wants the NCP-dominated government to declare a comprehensive one-month ceasefire in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. In addition it has called for the issuing of a general amnesty, allowing public freedoms and the release of all political detainees.
RSF DEPLOYED AROUND KHARTOUM
In a separate development, NISS director Mohamed Atta Abbas al-Moula on Sunday ordered three RSF brigades to deploy around the capital Khartoum and remain in a 100% state of readiness.
The Khartoum state police force on its end also announced that its forces elevated their degree of readiness to 100%.
No explanation was given for the decisions.