August 6, 2014 (PARIS) – The leader of Sudan’s opposition National Umma Party (NUP), al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, arrived in Paris on Wednesday to meet with leaders of the rebel alliance Sudan Revolutionary Forces (SRF) to discuss national dialogue and ways for achieving peace and democratic change in the country.
- NUP Sadiq al-Mahdi (C) received at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris by SPLM-N SG and SRF external relations secretary Yasir Arman, (L) NUP deputy president Meriam al-Mahdi (R), deputy chairmen of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) Ahmed Adam Bakheit (2d R) and SRF secretary for humanitarian affairs and a leading member of the Sudan Liberation Movement- Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) Trayo Ahmed Ali (2d L) on 6 August 2014 (ST)
Al-Mahdi was received at Charles de Gaulle by SPLM-N secretary and SRF external relations secretary Yasir Arman, deputy chairmen of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) Ahmed Adam Bakheit, who is also tasked with opposition relations, and SRF secretary for humanitarian affairs and a leading member of the Sudan Liberation Movement- Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) Trayo Ahmed Ali.
The NUP deputy chairman, Meriam al-Mahdi, told Sudan Tribune from Paris that al-Mahdi’s visit to France is part of a European tour that would include several countries.
She said that the NUP deputy chairman for communications, Mohamed Abdallah al-Douma, led contacts with the SRF rebel groups, adding he will be part of the opposition party’s delegation which would meet with the latter on Thursday.
The two sides are expected to meet on Thursday in Paris. The NUP delegation will be led by Sadiq al-Mahdi while Malik Agar will lead the SRF delegation.
Meriam expressed hope that the meeting, which is first of its kind between the two sides since the SRF was founded, would lead to signing a joint declaration on national dialogue and its requirements besides working together to achieve a genuine dialogue which leads to comprehensive change in Sudan.
“We hope the meeting will be the first step towards unifying positions of the national forces on the national dialogue,” she added.
Meriam al-Mahdi took part in a hearing on peace in Sudan held at the EU parliament in Strasbourg last month with other Sudanese rebel and opposition groups.
Last July, the SRF said it approved a plan to “unify forces of change through coordination, joint work, and continuous contacts with all forces interested in the unity of opposition”, vowing to make its utmost efforts to achieve “this vital mission within two months in order to allow Sudanese people make the necessary change”.
Arman told Sudan Tribune that any genuine national dialogue in Sudan needs to unite the opposition and civil society forces.
He further said the SRF meeting with the NUP leader “is the beginning of a series of meetings between political and civil forces to develop a unified vision about the change and the national dialogue”.
The rebel leader pointed out that this meeting has nothing with SRF’s agenda of military action, but aims to achieve a peaceful solution and a comprehensive democratic transformation in Sudan.
The SPLM-N general secretary said they are also in contact with the opposition umbrella of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) led by Farouk Abu Eissa, women and youth groups in order to finalise a national platform for democratic change in Sudan.
“We will soon present a unified vision to the Sudanese people, the regional and international communities,” he said.
In a meeting held in Paris between 20 and 25 July, the SRF leadership council called upon national forces which call for a comprehensive peaceful solution to continue their struggle against the regime and work towards unifying forces of change according to a joint vision for the comprehensive solution.
The rebel leadership urged these forces to continue their work to overthrow the regime, saying the two methods [armed struggle and peaceful solution] do not contradict and would lead to the desired change.
In October 2013, al-Sadiq al-Mahdi cancelled a trip the Ugandan capital, Kampala where he was scheduled to hold meetings with the SRF after the Ugandan authorities denied him a visa.
The largest opposition party decided last May to suspend its participation in the national dialogue process to protest the arrest of its leader al-Sadiq al-Mahdi as he had accused the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia of committing atrocities against civilians in Darfur.
After al-Mahdi release in June, the NUP stressed on the need to review the dialogue process and associate the “historical” political parties in an African Union-led process to achieve peace in the Two Areas and Darfur.
Al-Mahdi also called to include the rebel groups in the political dialogue stressing that no democratic change can be achieved without peace.