News / Africa

    Sudan Opposition Leader Accepts Talks With Government

    FILE - Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi.
    FILE - Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi.
    James Butty

    A Sudan opposition leader said her party will honor an African Union invitation to hold talks in Ethiopia with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s government to discuss a national dialogue intended to resolve the country’s problems. 

    A national dialogue launched last year by President Bashir is currently being held in Sudan. 

    Mariam al-Mahdi, daughter of opposition leader Sadig al-Mahdi and vice president of the Umma party has been critical of the current dialogue because it is being held in what she calls, "an unfriendly environment." 

    Mariam al-Mahdi said an African Union-sponsored dialogue would be different from the one being held in Khartoum because, first of all, it would discuss the root causes of the problems in Sudan, including lack of political and press freedom, and secondly, its preparatory meeting will be held outside Sudan.

    “It will be different because already the condition is conducive. In African Union Resolution #456, Article 14, this is what we are calling for because it needs to have conducive atmosphere first and with detailed items like the basic freedom and the participation of everybody and the addressing of all issues. Number 2, it allows for the preparatory meeting taking place outside of Sudan in Addis Ababa and that would allow all the stakeholders to participate in the preparation,” she said.

    “This is not a change of position for my part because my party has been all time committed to radical change in Sudan to resolve all these crises and to get to peace and democratic transformation through dialogue and or popular uprising. From the beginning we have been very much committed to the national dialogue through the African Union Peace and Security Council Resolution #456,” she added.

    She said the dialogue currently being held in Khartoum is not genuine because it has been orchestrated by the ruling National Congress Party, which does not want to address the root causes of Sudan's problems.

    Sudan's Information Minister Ahmed Bilal said some opposition parties refused to join the national dialogue despite invitations from President Bashir.

    “Actually the president, every here and now he’s talking about the national dialogue and persuading others to join the national dialogue. We spent a whole year talking about this, but the opposition actually they are not going to join. We talked to the rebels outside and they agree to join the national dialogue; and we waited for them for more than two or three months,” he said.

    Over the weekend, Hassan al-Turabi, secretary general of the Sudan Popular Congress Party, one of the parties participating in the Khartoum dialogue, called for a two-year transitional government to be headed by President Bashir.

    Mariam al-Mahdi said al-Turabi’s proposal is nothing new.

    “The call for a national interim government is a call that has been well established since 2014 by the major opposition parties – the armed and non-armed ones. But we don’t call this government to be headed by al-Bashir.  We want the national dialogue to be headed by an independent Sudanese character as well as the national interim government to be headed by a non-partisan independent Sudanese personality and that will assure the smooth transition from the government of the ruling party to the government of the people of Sudan,” al-Mahdi said.

    Analysts think the Addis Ababa meeting could clear the way for the Umma party to join the national dialogue currently going on in Khartoum.

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