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April 29, 2013

African Political Party Officials Seek Unity in Khartoum

by James Butty

A senior member of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) said a weekend meeting of 35 African political parties in Khartoum established a Council of African Political Parties. 

Ibrahim Ghandour, chairperson of the NPC’s foreign affairs sector said one of the key purposes of the meeting was to fast-track Africa’s political and economic integration, as the continent marks 50 years since the founding of the Organization of African Unity.

“The purpose is to try to bring Africans together.  As you know, political parties, whether ruling parties or opposition parties, have got members in the grassroots as well as they are the leaders of their societies. So, bringing African political parties together will fast-track Africa’s economic, social, and political integration,” he said.

Ghandour said one of the meeting’s achievements was the Khartoum Declaration which looked at all the issues of interest to Africa, including economic integration, world threat, and conflicts.

“The other is the establishment of the Council of African Political Parties itself with Khartoum as a base and the election of a president, four vice presidents, and a secretary and an executive committee.  But, the most important outcome is bringing African political parties together for the first time in the history of the continent,” Ghandour said.

He said both ruling and opposition parties from African countries attended the meeting.
Butty interview with Ghandour

“According to the proposed statute, which was endorsed by the general assembly of the African political parties, the two largest parties in every country with the most members in the elected parliament of their respective countries were invited,” he said.

Host Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, addressing the opening session, said the meeting was “one of the basic steps to complete the unity of Africa.”

Ghandour said differences in political parties’ philosophies would not hamper African unity.

“You know, ideology doesn’t matter in this case as far as we believe that Africa comes first.  Our founding fathers, which liberated Africa from colonialists, were looking forward in a Pan Africanist movement to unite Africa.  That has failed.  Now, in this year the African Union is celebrating 50 years of the foundation of African Unity, which is now the African Union,” Ghandour said.

The NCP has come under criticism.  The most recent U.S. State Department human rights report said it has dominated the political landscape, controlling all of the regional governorships and holding a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly.

It said the Political Parties Advisory Council oversees the registration of political parties, and is under the control of the ruling party.

The report said “authorities monitored and impeded political party meetings and activities, restricted political party demonstrations, used excessive force to break them up, and arrested opposition party members.”

But, Ghandour said the Sudanese government respects and tolerates the political opposition.
                   
“Definitely, in the parliament, we’ve got opposition parties.  We have got the main opposition, which the Popular Congress Party, and outside there is the National Alliance, which is a group of opposition parties who are day-by-day pestering the government and trying to replace the government through political and democratic means,” Ghandour said.