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Sudan dialogue parties demand release of political detainees

February 4, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – Several Sudanese opposition parties participating in the government-led national dialogue have stressed they will only join the process after the release of political detainees.

The opening session of the first roundtable on Sudan’s national dialogue in Khartoum on 6 April 2014 (SUNA)

The political secretary of the Popular Congress Party (PCP), Kamal Omer, said at a press conference on Wednesday that several political forces decided to suspend participation in the dialogue due to their differences with other parties which decided to participate in the upcoming elections.

Sudan’s president Omer Hassan al-Bashir launched the national dialogue initiative a year ago in which he urged opposition parties and rebels alike to join the dialogue table to discuss all the pressing issues.

But the initiative faced serious setbacks after rebel groups and leftist parties refused to join and after the National Umma Party (NUP) led by al-Sadiq al-Mahdi withdrew from the process in protest of al-Mahdi’s brief arrest last May.

Last month, several political parties including the Reform Now Movement (RNM) led by Ghazi Salah al-Din and the Just Peace Forum (JPF) led by al-Tayeb Mustafa and the Alliance of the Peoples’ Working Forces (APWF) announced they had decided to suspend participation in the national dialogue until the requirements of a conducive environment are met.

They identified 12 confidence building measures saying that it was agreed in the roadmap of the national dialogue and endorsed by the regional and international organisations supporting the process.

These measures include the release of political detainees, freedom of expression, freedom of movement and travel, ending media restrictions, taking the needed measures to allow the return of opponents and rebels into the country, stopping war and allowing humanitarian access.

Omer said they made efforts to convince those who suspended their participation in the dialogue to reverse their decision but have failed.

He further described the decision of those parties to suspend participation in the dialogue as “hasty”, saying the 7+7 committee decided to replace them by other parties.

According to Omer, the RNM, JPF and the APWF will be replaced by three parties including al-Watan, National Alliance and Darfur Forum.

The PCP official reiterated that dialogue is the only available option to resolve Sudan’s crises, saying the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) would be obliged to implement the outcome of the national dialogue.

He emphasized that all political parties participating in the dialogue will submit a memo to president Bashir to release political detainees, calling upon the government to allow al-Sadiq al-Mahdi to return to the country.

Last December, Sudanese security detained the chairman of the opposition National Consensus Forces (NCF), Farouk Abu Issa and the head of the Alliance of the Sudanese Civil Society Organizations, Amin Mekki Medani, after being signatories to the “Sudan Call” accord with the rebel umbrella Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) and NUP in Addis Ababa.

The security service also detained a former ruling NCP member from the Blue Nile state, Farah Agar, and his office manager, Mohamed Eldoud for meeting with the rebel groups on the sidelines of peace talks in Addis Ababa.

On Sunday, Sudan’s justice minister, Mohamed Bushara Dousa, refused to dismiss charges filed against Abu-Essa and Medani and referred their case to court.

A criminal court in Khartoum on Monday ordered that the detention of the pair be extended saying the decision was based on a request made by the prosecution that they want to bring other defendants who are not physically present in the country.