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Sudan’s opposition calls for meeting on national dialogue mechanism

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June 17, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The opposition parties participating in the national dialogue process on Tuesday have urged president Omer Hassan al-Bashir to expeditiously determine the date for holding the meeting of the dialogue mechanism.

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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 call comes after a meeting they held a meeting on Tuesday in the absence of the NUP to discuss the recent developments in the dialogue process after a presidential decision to release the leader of the National Umma Party (NUP) Sadiq al-Mahdi.

The opposition parties said they intend to submit several demands including allowing political and press freedoms, stopping political detention, and halting ongoing preparation for the 2015 elections.

Sudan Tribune learned that opposition parties which agreed to participate in the national dialogue including the Popular Congress Party (PCP), Just Peace Forum (JPF), Justice Party (JP), and the Alliance of the Peoples’ Working Forces (APWF) met on Monday with the NUP leadership to convince them to return to dialogue

Al-Mahdi was arrested on May 17th for criticising alleged crimes and atrocities committed by the Rapid Support Force (RSF) militia. He was accused of undermining the constitution among other charges that could have led to the death penalty if convicted.

An opposition official who attended the meeting told Sudan Tribune that the NUP agreed to return to the dialogue but the move has not yet been officially announced.

Meanwhile the political secretary of the Reform Now Party (RNP), Hassan Osman Rizq, said his party agreed to return to the dialogue. But the party’s dialogue secretary Fadallah Ahmed Abdallah on Tuesday evening said still they did not decide to resume their participation in the process citing government’s arbitrary decisions against freedoms.

The RNP politburo formed mainly by dissidents from the ruling party will meet on Wednesday to decide on their participation in the national dialogue.

The NUP and the RNP suspended participation in the dialogue process to protest al-Mahdi’s arrest and what they said was a government crackdown on political and media liberties.

The dialogue mechanism, which is headed by president Bahsir, includes seven members from the government side and an equal number from the opposition. The mechanism work was suspended following arrest of al-Mahdi on May 17.

The RNP political secretary, Hassan Rizq, told reporters following the meeting that release of al-Mahdi does not suffice for the beginning of the dialogue, pointing to the need for releasing the leader of the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP), Ibrahim al-Shiekh, and all political detainees in the capital and the states including prisoners of rebel groups.

He demanded the government to lift restrictions on political and press liberties, pointing to the continuous crackdown on newspapers.

Rizq also urged the government to stop all procedures relating to the upcoming elections, saying the NCP does not have the right to unilaterally decide on the elections without participation of all political forces.

He said the NCP control over elections besides the security apparatus and other government institutions means that it will win the election by % 99.9.

The RNP official further refused to describe the opposition demands as preconditions, saying those demands will be presented from within the dialogue mechanism.

He noted that president Bashir vowed to secure all those demands in the speech he delivered last April, adding “we only ask him to meet his pledges”.

“If there are bodies within the government that oppose the president’s directive, dialogue will not succeed”, he stressed.

He underscored the need for offering internal guarantees besides international monitoring in order to secure success of the dialogue, pointing that the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU) expressed interest in the dialogue process and continue to follow its development.

The secretary general of the Arab Nasserite Party (ANP), Mustafa Mahmoud, for his part, said the opposition parties are ready to start the work of the dialogue mechanism, urging president Bashir to expedite the call for holding its meeting.

He also called upon the president to create an atmosphere conducive for the dialogue and build confidence among political parties particularly after the arrest of the NUP leader which negatively impacted the dialogue environment.

AU WELCOMES AL-MAHDI’S RELEASE

The chairperson of the commission of the African Union (AU), Dlamini-Zuma, has welcomed the release of al-Mahdi, saying it “is a step in the right direction that will contribute to the creation of conditions conducive to the successful conduct of the National Dialogue Initiative (…)”.

She reiterated, in a statement issued on Tuesday, AU’s support to Bashir’s initiative, appealing to the government to ensure that the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people of Sudan are protected.

Zuma also called on all concerned parties to desist from actions that would threaten the proposed national dialogue and to recommit to a transparent, inclusive and holistic process that will ensure stability, democracy and development in the country.

She renewed AU’s continued commitment, through the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), to assist the government and the Sudanese people, in their efforts to address the challenges facing their country through dialogue.

(ST)

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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