Sudan ruling party reformers to set up 'new party'

AFP , Saturday 26 Oct 2013

A group of senior members in the Sudanese ruling party split to form a new party following a deadly crackdown on protests last month

Three leading reformers faced with expulsion from Sudan's ruling party have decided to form a new party following a deadly crackdown on protests last month, one of them said Saturday.

"We decided to establish a new party carrying the hopes of the Sudanese people," Fadlallah Ahmed Abdallah, an MP with the governing National Congress Party (NCP), told AFP.

"We have already put in motion a plan to establish this party."

The name and structure of the new organisation will be revealed within one week, Abdallah added.

On Thursday, an internal NCP investigative committee ruled that Abdallah, former sports minister Hassan Osman Riziq, and ex-presidential adviser Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani should be ousted after they signed a memorandum criticising the regime's crackdown on protests over price rises in September.

Atabani was the lead signatory but 30 other prominent reformers also signed the memorandum sent to President Omar al-Bashir that they made public.

They charged the government's response to the demonstrations over fuel price hikes betrayed the regime's Islamic foundations.

Abdallah, a former engineering commissioner in West Darfur state, said all the signatories of the memorandum planned to join the new party.

"The members of parliament in our group are going to resign," he added.

Atabani and Riziq also currently serve as NCP legislators.

Abdallah said retired military officers who signed the memorandum will also join the new group.

These include retired armed forces Brigadier Mohammed Ibrahim, who was sentenced to five years in prison in April for allegedly leading a coup plot against the regime last year.

Bashir later granted amnesty to him and others involved.

In their memorandum, the reformers made a series of recommendations, including for an independent probe of the shooting of civilians during the protests, and for a reversal of the price increases.

Instead, they found themselves under investigation by the party.

Ahmed Ibrahim al-Tahir, who led the internal probe, said Thursday that the NCP membership of Abdallah, Riziq and Atabani would be revoked if a 400-member party council gives final approval.

He said six others who endorsed the memorandum had been suspended from party activities for one year.

They violated party rules by setting up a "parallel organisation" and by communicating with other political parties without NCP approval, Tahir said.

He added that the memorandum came at an inappropriate time, on September 27, when security forces were struggling against "criminals" and party unity was required.

"This was not a time to raise such a memorandum," said Tahir, who is speaker of parliament.

Atabani told AFP on Monday that his party membership had already been suspended but the reformers would not back down.

He said the NCP was spending too much time on "this minor internal issue at a time when the country is on the verge of collapse."

Thousands of people, many of them Khartoum-area poor, took to the streets when the government cut fuel subsidies, forcing retail prices up by more than 60 percent.

Dozens were killed.

Bashir said the protests were part of an effort to end his 24-year rule, using "agents, thieves and hijackers".

The reformers said the government's economic measures were not presented to parliament and citizens had no chance to give input peacefully.

They called for "professionals" to take over economic policy assisted by members of other political parties.

The memorandum also sought an end to press censorship, and respect for constitutional freedoms including peaceful assembly.

Even before the September demonstrations, critics within the NCP had raised concerns including over alleged corruption and a drift from Islamic values.

"We cannot ignore that our party needs reform," Tahir said, adding that a committee will bring proposals for change to the NCP's congress next year.

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