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Sudan opposition urges international community to press ruling party on detainees, reforms

January 30, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – A coalition of mainstream opposition parties in north Sudan has urged the international community to wield pressure on the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) there to release political detainees and respond to pressing demands of constitutional reforms as the country faces the imminent breakaway of south Sudan.

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File photo - meeting of NCF leaders

The National Consensus Forces (NCF), an umbrella body whose most notable members are the National Umma Party led by Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi and the Popular Congress Party of veteran Islamist Hassan Al-Turabi, on Saturday released a memorandum appealing to members of the international community to stand in support of reforms and democratization in north Sudan.

The NCF warned that failure by the ruling party to meet its demands would result in further disintegration of the country and regional stability.

The NCP demanded that the NCP ceases violations against opposition leaders, citing the continued arrest of Hassan Al-Turabi and the physical assault against the NUP’s leading member Maryam Al-Mahdi, and called for actions to be taken.

In the early hours of January 17, heavily armed members of Sudan security forces arrested Hassan Al-Turabi along with a number of his close aides, hours after a press interview in which he warned the government of facing popular protests if it continued to resist demands to share powers.

Three weeks earlier, NUP’s leading member Maryam al-Mahdi sustained serious injuries when police forces attacked and forcibly dispersed a group of NUP supporters marching from their headquarters to perform Friday prayers in Omdurman town.

The opposition alliance accused the NCP of seeking to curtail public freedoms and reverse cultural diversity granted in the 2005’s Interim National Constitution (2005).

Sudan president Omar Al-Bashir has vowed to transform the predominately Muslim north Sudan into an Islamic state following the secession of the south, where most people ascribe to Christianity and traditional beliefs. South Sudan voted almost unanimously for secession from the north in a weeklong referendum this month.

The opposition parties reiterated their demands for the ruling party to hold a constitutional conference in order to produce a national government, form a new constitution, prepare for elections and resolve the ongoing conflict in the western region of Darfur.

The NCF repeated their threats to adopt “tried and tested methods of civil political action” to mobilize popular support behind the demands should the NCP fail to heed them.

The opposition alliance criticized the “short-sighted” focus of the international community’s policy which intensified towards resolving north-south issues and ignored the issue of democratization and political freedoms in the north.

“We would like to urge your esteemed mission (s) and government (s) to exert pressure on the NCP to free all political detainees and prisoners of conscience immediately, and to respect the public freedoms provided for in the constitution,” the memo said.

The opposition alliance voiced concern that the continuation of NCP policies would lead to further disintegration of the country and undermine regional stability.