Sudanese opposition leaders remain united

Asmaa el Husseini, Thursday 6 Jan 2011

The opposition Juba Alliance reiterates its aim of toppling Bashir's government and lists the grievances that they claim have put the country on the brink

Leading members of the Sudanese opposition Juba Alliance have insisted that the postponement of yesterday's meeting is not a sign of internal disputes or that they are compromising on the goal of toppling the incumbent regime. They reiterated their rejection of President Omar Al-Bashir's proposal for a broad based government, asserting their demand for an interim government.

"The meeting was postponed because some in the opposition wanted to wait for the results of the self-determination referendum in the South, and until the deadline of 26 January, which Sadeq Al-Mahdi, the president of the Umma Party set for the government," according to sources in the opposition. "Also, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) may not want to engage in opposition activities until the referendum is over. If the South secedes, the SPLM's chapter in the North will become an independent political party there and work with other opposition."

The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) accuses the opposition alliance of trying to impose a foreign agenda on Sudan, because it rejected Bashir's offer of greater participation in government. The ruling party denounced what it views as "destruction by milestones". Mohamed Al-Hassan, a leading NCP figure, said that the Sudanese government was elected by the people and recognised by the international community. "The government will remain in power until the end of its tenure, even after the referendum takes place," Al-Hassan assured.

Al-Mahdi wants the government to adopt a partnership treaty between the North and South to contain the negative repercussions of partition, and creating a system of co-dependence in several fields. He also wants the government to resolve the Darfur crisis along the lines of the Darfurian demands. Al-Mahdi is calling for public freedoms, respecting human rights, a sensible economic programme, and a rational and realistic way of handling the International Criminal Court issue.

The Umma Party leader said the ruling NCP has only two choices: either accept or reject these demands. If it turns them down, he said, this will result in a hostile relationship with the South and a confrontation with the movements in Darfur, the international community, the Sudanese street and economic problems.

"In response, as a political force and party, we will take action in the form of campaigns, protests and civil disobedience," stated Al-Mahdi. "Several fronts will oppose the regime in a national struggle in which the Umma Party will participate."

Responding to Bashir's proposal of a broad based government, Al-Mahdi said: "We are not talking about a government, we are talking about a program. We did not and will not discuss any type of government if we do not first agree on a program based on a national agenda. We refuse to participate in a government implementing current policies; we will never consider it. The name of the government is inconsequential; what is important is the program it implements which we believe should be our national agenda."

There have been reports that the opposition is preparing for zero hour to confront the government. "I don't think there is talk about zero hour," responded Al-Mahdi. "We are talking about uniting opinions, and what we need to do now is align the national vision on one national agenda. Until this moment, I insist that there is no point in talking about a specific time to confront the regime. Our duty now is to close ranks, and after our demands are met then we can talk about what needs to be done to implement the national agenda."

The regime and police have strongly warned against the opposition taking to the streets, and that any civil unrest will be dealt with fiercely. "This is a natural reaction," opined Al-Mahdi. "It would be unfortunate if Sudan enters into confrontations; the way out is not by threats and clashes. This regime will go down in history as the one which tore Sudan apart and squandered its unity and sovereignty."

Kamal Omar, the political secretary of the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP) denied rumours by the government that the opposition was divided, describing it as an attempt to damage relations within the alliance. "Our positions within the opposition alliance are unanimous," he stated. "We postponed the meeting to rally more people and create more solidarity within the ranks of the opposition, and allow others to join us. We also realise that any action by the alliance will bring about significant results, especially that the government is threatening to thwart the opposition. This requires proper preparations."

Omar continued that "this joint position by the opposition did not come about in just the last few days, but was formed during a long series of understandings on all issues in Sudan, the South, Darfur and freedoms. Now, coordination is not only at the level of party presidents, but across entire parties, among the youth, students, women, states. This is true mobilisation against this myopic regime whose mistaken policies have resulted in the partition of the South. Darfur is going down the same path, and so is the East. We all agree that the crisis in Sudan is caused by the regime which is now disconnected from the people after rigging votes in the last elections."

"We will topple this regime to protect the country," declared Omar. "If it stays in power, this will mean tearing apart what is left of Sudan."

Ali Mahmoud Hassanein, deputy chairman of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), called on the people of Sudan to topple the incumbent regime. "In a few days, our brothers in the South will vote for secession from the North," Hassanein noted. "Our country will become fragmented. One third of Sudan will be gone because the elitist policies of the NCP, which refused to implement the peace treaty in a proper manner. Instead of making unity an appealing option it made it detestable; instead of resolving issues, it complicated them further. And the interim period was spent in quarrels between the NCP and SPLM.

"We have to fight this regime not talk with it," he said, "because, as everyone can see, it is the root of all evil. We must remove it if we want a true beginning to correct the path of our country."

Hassanein added that the incumbent is not interested in maintaining the unity of Sudan: "Today, the South is gone, and other regions will follow. If this regime remains in power there will be no more Sudan. All the states will go." He called on all factions in Darfur to unite under the umbrella of the Wide National Front to resolve national problems, most prominently the issue of Darfur.

Hassanein expects that after partition, Sudan will suffer complete economic collapse as 95 per cent of Sudan's revenues come from exporting oil from South Sudan. "This will cut off foreign currency from the central government (in the North) and there will be no foreign currency to import basic commodities," he explained. "Sudan needs gasoline worth $6 million every day. Without gasoline, there will be no agricultural projects, trucks, cars or [commercial] activity. After July 9 (when South Sudan would officially become independent), we will not have this money."

Meanwhile, he continued, Sudan needs to import grains, most prominently wheat, at a cost of $1.7 billion annually. "Where would we come up this money when we no longer have revenue from oil exports?" he asked.

"The revolution is coming, no doubt; whether we provoke it or not. This is the revolution of the hungry and marginalized suffering people of Sudan who have lost their dignity, and the women who have been disrespected. We must all be part of this revolution, fuel it and lead it," he declared.

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