June 10, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – Members of a troika group comprising of Norway, United Kingdom and the United States issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming the “stated intent” by Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to undertake a process of national dialogue.
- Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir delivers a speech in the capital, Khartoum, on 27 January 2014 in which he appealed for a political and economic renaissance in the country (Photo: AFP/Ebrahim Hamid)
“We have long shared the view of many Sudanese that a sustainable peace and a prosperous Sudan can only be achieved through a fundamental review and reform of national governance systems that concentrate power at the centre and marginalise the regions,” the statement reads.
“To this end, we are encouraged by the leadership’s stated intent to confront questions regarding the country’s ongoing conflicts, poverty, governance, political freedoms, and national identity. We note that a common understanding of the dialogue process, and the desired goals, will invite broad participation and offer the best chance for success. In this regard, we encourage Sudan’s leaders to work in close coordination with the AU High-level Implementation Panel, led by president [Thabo]Mbeki, to ensure that those goals are met,” it adds.
Late last January, Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir announced in a televised address to the nation a four-point plan for reform "to stop the war and bring peace, free political society, fight against poverty and revitalise national identity".
He further called for political forces and even rebel groups to lay down arms to engage in dialogue to agree on the implementation items to achieve these objectives.
Bashir afterwards held a political roundtable in Khartoum with the participation of 83 political parties and announced a series of confidence-building measures that removed restrictions on the press and activities by political parties.
He also issued a directive to release all political detainees except those implicated in criminal acts.
But two of the major opposition parties including the National Umma Party (NUP) and Reform Now Party (RNP) announced that they have pulled out of the national dialogue to protest crackdown by the government on press and political freedoms.
NUP leader and former prime minister al-Sadiq al-Mahdi was arrested last month over his criticism of government militia for alleged atrocities in conflict zones. Authorities also detained the head of the Sudanese Congress Party, Ibrahim al-Sheik, last week for the same reason.
The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) also suspended al-Saiha newspaper over a string of corruption stories it published and filed charges against 13 of its staff while summoning them on a continuous basis for interrogation.
On 19 May, the Sudanese presidency delivered a firm warning to media outlets on its coverage of certain items that poses a danger to national security and the country as a whole.
Sudanese minister of information Ahmed Bilal Osman said the NISS has the legal right to suspend al-Saiha and any media raising confusion and dissension in the country.
The troika statement noted that Khartoum “has taken actions of late that have enabled some to raise doubts about the sincerity of this [national dialogue] initiative”.
“Most notably, the government continues to wage a war and target civilians in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and bears primary responsibility for intensifying the conflict in Darfur, where some 300,000 have been displaced this year ... Similarly, the government’s restriction and increased repression of individual, political, and press freedoms limits the space necessary for a successful national dialogue; such a process will demand both goodwill and a conducive environment if it is to enjoy broad legitimacy,” the statement said.
In a letter sent to the UN Security Council, the African Union Peace and Security Council and the League of Arab States on Tuesday, a coalition of 46 organisations providing humanitarian assistance and supporting peace efforts in Sudan have demanded an end to the targeting of civilians by the Sudanese government and its associated armed militia, also calling for an independent investigation into recent attacks.
“These coordinated air and ground attacks are part of an escalating military campaign across the Two Areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile) and Darfur which the Government of Sudan has publicly proclaimed is designed to crush the protracted armed rebellions,” the letter said.
They have also called for an “immediate and impartial investigation to establish the facts and responsibility for any crimes committed”.