May 28, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The nearly two-week arrest of the National Umma Party leader, Sadiq al-Mahdi, stirred conflicting reactions among Sudanese opposition parties that have accepted to be part of the national dialogue process.
- From left to right: Leader of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) Hassan Al-Turabi, Reform Now Party (RNP) head Ghazi Salah Al-Deen Al-Attabani, National Umma Party (NUP) Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi and second vice-president Hassabo Abdel-Rahman attend a speech by the president announcing a national dialogue initiative on 27 January 2014 (SUNA)
The Reform Now Party (RNP), of Ghazi Salah Eddin al-Attabani criticized al-Mahdi’s arrest and recent measures restricting the freedom of the press, saying it would derail the national dialogue. But, the Popular Congress Party (PCP) of Hassan al-Turabi reiterated that it would not abandon the political process.
“The government’s approach to the current political crisis is at least surprising and can be described as short-sighted and narrow-minded,” said the RNP, in a statement released following a meeting of its political bureau on Monday.
The RNP, which split from the ruling party last year over need for reforms, said that the government lacks a clear vision towards dialogue and national reconciliation stressing that “those obstacles could lead to the suspension of dialogue”.
However, PCP external relations official, Bashir Adam Rahama said on Wednesday that his party is fully committed to the national dialogue and would boycott it even if all the opposition parties quit the process.
He further said that the agenda of the forthcoming dialogue will focus on peace, promotion of freedoms and economic reforms, as well as resolution of regional crises and the transitional period arrangements, reaffirming that “there is no way out of these crises, but to sit at the table of dialogue”.
The Islamist opposition official did not rule out that foreign pressures on rebels groups lead the latter to participate in the national dialogue once they got strong guarantees from the government after a ceasefire and humanitarian access to civilians in the rebel held areas.
It is believed in Khartoum, that European countries particularly those seen as “neutral” by the Sudanese government like Germany, Italy and even Britain can play a positive role in the national dialogue by bridging the gaps between the Sudanese parties and proposing a roadmap for peace in Sudan.
EU REITERATES SUPPORT
The European Union (EU) Delegation in Khartoum in agreement with the European embassies in Sudan and the Ambassador of Norway issued a joint statement on Wednesday reiterating its support to the comprehensive national dialogue and calling on all the Sudanese parties to “abstain from acts and statements that might derail the process”.
“We express great concern about recent actions, specifically measures imposing renewed limits on freedom of the press, and the freedoms of expression, association, participation, assembly and religion. The arrest and continued detention of opposition leader Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi in particular risks having an adverse effect on the process of national dialogue,” the European diplomats further said.
They further concluded by urging Khartoum government to work for peace, national dialogue and full respect of human rights and political freedoms.
REFORM BUT NO CHAOS
The deputy chairman of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and presidential assistant, Ibrahim Ghandour, on Wednesday renewed calls for national dialogue saying that his government wants it to be conducted without endangering the political stability.
Speaking in a symposium organised by NCP women section, Ghandour said his government is committed and keen to dialogue with political opposition, pointing that if they did not spare effort to negotiate with the rebels they should rather negotiate with opponents who did not take up arms.
He further stressed that the government does not act by reacting to the events but calls to the need to combine personal freedom and the law.
The presidential assistant was commenting on the internal and foreign statements criticizing the arrest of the opposition leader who supports the national dialogue process and democratic transition in Sudan, but also the recent series of decisions reneging on the freedom of expression.
Sudanese officials said they reject any criticism against the armed forces and government militia Rapid Support Forces which al-Mahdi accused of committing atrocities in South Kordofan and Darfur.