KHARTOUM, Oct 14 (AFP) — Sudan’s Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi said Tuesday he would meet other groups to broaden political participation, a day after his release from more than two years of house arrest.
“We are going to make a tour of the whole of Sudan and meet all the parties … We are going to extend our hand to them and dialogue with them,” Turabi told a press conference.
Turabi, the 71-year-old leader of the Popular Congress Party (PCP), portrayed himself as the defender of individual freedom and democracy, saying “power would return soon to the people.”
He railed against the monopoly of “power kept in one hand, money in one pocket and the right to speak in one mouth,” alluding to the government of former ally President Omar el-Beshir.
The president’s office said Turabi’s release on Monday was part of efforts to “prepare for the coming peace era” in Sudan.
A beaming Turabi, wearing the traditional white turban, told reporters he was freed because of domestic and foreign pressures coinciding with dramatic progress toward ending a 20-year-old civil war with southern rebels.
Turabi, an Islamist ideologue with influence beyond Sudan’s borders, backed the 1989 military coup which brought Beshir to power but was removed from key political posts after losing a power struggle with the president in 1999.
He was arrested along with many of his followers in February 2001 after the PCP signed a memorandum of understanding in Switzerland with southern rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
A Sudanese government official had branded the deal, which called for joint peaceful resistance to Beshir’s government, a “conspiracy, subversion and a threat of violence.”
Since July 2002, the Sudanese government and the SPLA have made major strides during US-backed negotiations in Kenya toward ending the war, with officials here predicting a final peace agreement within weeks.