May 29, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The head of the National Umma Party (NUP) al- Sadiq al-Mahdi received a surprise visit on Thursday at Khartoum’s notorious Kober prison by his cousins Mubarak al-Fadil and Ahmed Abdel-Rahman al-Mahdi.
- Leader of the dissolved Umma Reform and Renewal Party (URRP) Mubarak Al-Fadil (R) talking to head of the National Umma Party (NUP) Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi (Photo: courtesy of Mohamed Adil)
Sources told Sudan Tribune that the simultaneous visit of the two men was a "pure coincidence" as they were granted permission around the same time.
Ahmed, who is the eldest son of NUP founder Abdel-Rahman, was accompanied by his brother in law Musa Abdullah Hamid and head of the Umma Party-Collective Leadership al-Sadiq al-Hadi al-Mahdi.
Both Ahmed and al-Fadil had long-standing disputes with al-Mahdi. The former fell out with the NUP chief since the 60’s and went as far as testifying against him in court following the failed 1976 coup attempt staged by opposition forces operating out of Libya.
Al-Fadil was considered al-Mahdi’s right hand man until he defected from the party in 2002 and formed the Umma Reform and Renewal Party (URRP). He was of the view at the time that the NUP should take part in the government while al-Mahdi rejected any participation in a non-democratically elected government.
The two men exchanged bitter accusations during the 2002-2003 period. He was appointed as a president Omer Hassan al-Bashir’s adviser for economic affairs in 2002. Several members of his newly created party 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 the 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.
In a public letter to al-Mahdi this month, al-Fadil urged him to step down to give room to a new generation and play a symbolic role in the background. But the NUP leader rejected the plea and called on his cousin, who returned to Sudan after two years of living abroad, to form his own party.
According to the same sources, al-Mahdi told his visitors that field commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Ahmed Hamdan was behind his arrest after complaining to National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) director Mohamed Atta Abbas al-Moula.
Al-Mahdi was arrested on May 17, days after he was called for questioning by state prosecutors over statements he made accusing the paramilitary unit of committing abuses against civilians in Darfur and Kordofan regions.
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.
Hamdan told NISS director that these remarks will demoralize the troops and after permission was granted from president Bashir the NUP leader was arrested, al-Mahdi reportedly told his cousins.
As of late, the government and parliament repeated warnings that criticism of uniformed units is a "red line" and could amount to treason.
The presidency rejected demands by the opposition parties to intervene in favor of his release.
However, it did not rule out the possibility of stepping in but only after the entire judicial process is concluded.
The NUP announced that it has suspended its participation in the national dialogue process to protest its leader’s arrest.
In a related issue NUP youth and student bodies along with the party religious wing of al-Ansar called for protests after Friday prayers to condemn the arrest of their leader.
A similar attempt was made last week but witnessed weak turnout and was swiftly dispersed by riot police.
A joint statement by the Reform Now Party (RNP) and NUP released today strongly denounced what they called the unwise approach and behavior by the government in light of its recent crackdown on freedoms and the escalation of political arrests.
The statement called on the government to stop the confiscation of newspapers and confront the corruption epidemic and desist from the practice of torture, intimidation and mistrust to anyone who deals with public issues according to different perspective from the one held by the government.
The two sides agreed to work together to form a broad front comprised of all components of the political spectrum and civil society to recover public freedoms and defend it and protect it from any predominance .