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Sudanese Opposition Members Join Government - 2002-08-21

The reshuffle of Sudan's cabinet on Monday brought in eight members of a breakaway faction of the country's main opposition party. The defections have created a furor in Sudanese politics.

Officials of Sudan's main opposition party say they are outraged that eight members defied the party leadership and joined the reshuffled cabinet of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Omar el-Nour el-Dayem is the deputy chairman of the Umma Party. He says the eight people who left Umma did so in violation of the party's principles.

Mr. el-Nour el-Dayem says the defections are impeding the development of democracy, freedom, and human rights in Sudan. Although, he says, he does not expect the departure of the eight to affect the future of the Umma party.

President al-Bashir has long attempted to broaden his cabinet, but had been unable to convince opposition members to join his coalition. The eight members were officially sworn in on Tuesday.

Mubarak al-Fadil al-Mahdi was given five positions in the new cabinet including assistant to the president. He told VOA his decision to join the government was not an abandonment of the Umma Party. He says he is bringing Umma Party values into the government.

Mr. al-Mahdi says his participation will help spread peace and build democracy in the country. He says that by being part of the government he will also help ensure stability and bring an end to the conflict the country has experienced since its independence.

The decision by the president to reshuffle his cabinet comes as a second round of peace talks between the government and the rebels continue in Kenya, aimed at ending Sudan's 19-year civil war. A war that has claimed as many as two million lives. Sudanese rebels in mostly animist and Christian south have been fighting for greater autonomy from the mainly Muslim north and want exemption from Islamic law that has been applied nationwide. During the first round of peace talks in July the government conceded to both demands and signed a deal that will allow southerners the right to secede from the north in six years.