June 29, 2013, (KHARTOUM) - The leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi addressed a mass rally in Sudan’s twin capital of Omdurman in which he called for establishing a new regime in the country in a rare show of force.
- Holding a banner that reads in Arabic, "Leave Bashir", supporters of former prime minister (1986-1989) and now head of the National Umma Party (NUP), religious leader al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, rally in Khalifa Square in Sudan twin capital of Omdurman on June 29, 2013 (ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images)
But hundreds of his supporters who attended the pre-planned gathering expressed disappointment at Al-Mahdi’s speech and some even clashed with other NUP members who were in attendance.
The former Prime Minister was interrupted at times by his supporters who chanted anti-government slogans and called for toppling the regime of the National Congress Party (NCP).
"Calm down….You came to hear me not for me to hear you," a bemused Al-Mahdi said in response to them.
"This is our way…If you don’t like it then you can show yourself out," he told a disappointed section of his supporters.
At one point Al-Mahdi accused some of seeking to hijack the party to a certain direction "to achieve special interest" and urged his supporters to stand in the way of those working to sabotage on behalf of foreign powers "who should be isolated".
Al-Mahdi called on the government to listen to the voice of reason saying that a quarter of a century is more than enough to open a new page and form a national government.
"My brother Mr. President, don’t listen to voices that says there is no opposition, especially from sham parties…opposition is now at its peak and you have to grab the historic opportunity to be a consensual president", he said.
He accused the government of bad policies that split the country into two, allowed for international intervention, breeding extremist Islamic factions, mismanagement of money during the oil boom that neglected crucial productive sectors and destroyed civil service.
"The regime that seized power through a coup and established empowerment through exclusion and making people poor, abusing human rights, tore the country and subjected it to internationalization so it deserves to be asked to leave; Leave!", he said.
"We are working to establish a new system that frees the country from tyranny and corruption and achieve complete democratic transformation, comprehensive and just peace and our means to achieve this is through mobilization and sit-ins and all the available methods except violence and utilizing the outside [foreign forces]", Al-Mahdi added.
The NUP chief also expressed readiness to work with the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) but only if they drop arms and work for a peaceful settlement.
He warned that if SRF fails to remove the regime by force then they will give it more reason to stay in power and if they succeed then they will establish a regime based on exclusion.
This Sunday marks 24 years since Bashir staged a military coup against the multi-party government led by al-Mahdi.
Prior to today’s rally many expressed doubts about al-Mahdi’s true intentions.
"We do not trust this man; he steals our plans to make it fail and add few more years to the ruling regime plus he is not in good terms with the [Sudan] Revolutionary Front as he fiercely criticized it during the Abu-Kershola events", an opposition figure told Sudan Tribune this week.
A columnist in the privately owned al-Khartoum newspaper echoed the same sentiments in an op-ed.
"Let us see what Al-Mahdi intends to do in the last day of this month, but what this man did in many past initiatives makes us totally non-optimistic [because] he is not someone to be trusted", Hassan Ismail wrote.
"In the last [2010 general] elections he [al-Mahdi] received millions of pounds from the ruling [NCP] party", he added.
Many critics point out to the fact that al-Mahdi’s son Abdel-Rahman has accepted a position as an assistant to president Bashir in late 2012.
They also say that Al-Mahdi, who was also Sudan’s last democratically elected Prime Minister before the 1989 coup, has made it a habit to publicly bash other opposition parties and insisting that he does not want to overthrow the regime but rather "change" it.
The NUP leader has made sure to distance his party from last year’s demonstrations that broke out in response to the government’s rollout of austerity measures in response to growing economic pressures caused by the secession of the oil-rich South Sudan.
“We have hosted them [the protesters in our headquarters] but we don’t think that the time has come for us to organise such a movement until we have an alternative regime in place ... and democratic transformation", al-Mahdi, told the Financial Times newspaper in July 2012.
Some members of the NUP politburo privately say that they believe al-Mahdi has forged a secret deal with the NCP to assure that the opposition party stays away from any attempts to stage mass protests against the regime.
This month Al-Mahdi said he does not approve of the 100-day plan to oust the regime announced by the National Consensus Front (NCF) even though a representative of the NUP at the coalition said he took part in formulating the scheme.
Instead, he offered a different initiative to change the regime through collecting a million signatures and organizing sit-ins in public squares and other places.