(KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP) has offered a rare praise for president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir against the background of his directive on Sunday to release political detainees and allow for more political and press freedoms.
Bashir announced a series of resolutions at the onset of a political roundtable held yesterday in Khartoum with the participation of 83 political parties.
He instructed authorities in the states and localities across Sudan to enable political parties to carry out their activities inside and outside their headquarters without restrictions except those dictated by the law.
The Sudanese president also pledged to enhance press freedom so that it can play its role in the success of the national dialogue unconditionally as long they abide by the norms of the profession.
Political detainees who have not been found to be involved in criminal acts will be released, Bashir added.
He also stressed the government’s commitment and willingness to allow rebels to participate in the national dialogue and vowed to give them adequate and appropriate safeguards to attend and depart safely afterwards.
However, in a press release on Monday, secretary-general of the rebel Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North, (SPLM-N) Yasir Arman downplayed the presidential resolutions and described them as “wordplay”, saying they have no value as long as extraordinary laws continue to exist.
Arman proposed forming an independent body comprised of the representatives from the African Union and the United Nations in order to initiate a genuine dialogue.
The PCP political secretary, Kamal Omer, described Bashir’s decisions as “important and brave”, saying the president took a daring and strong stance.
At a press conference on Monday, he stressed that the move represents a major national event and pointed to the wide political participation, urging PCP’s allies in the opposition umbrella organisation of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) to engage in the dialogue.
Omer underscored that there is no reason for rejecting the dialogue call at the present time, saying the political forces have the lead now and not the government.
He attributed the change in his party’s stance towards the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to the latter’s seriousness to engage in dialogue with the opposition, saying they were encouraged by the NCP new position and accepted its call for national dialogue.
However, Arman said that the majority of the political parties which took part at the political roundtable are puppets of the NCP with the exception of “very few”, saying that the meeting would only reproduce the regime.
He emphasised that crucial procedural issues require agreement on the criteria of participation in the dialogue and how decisions will be made besides determining who has the right to take part in the decision making in order to avoid hegemony of the NCP on the political and constitutional process.
Arman said in the statement that any genuine dialogue requires agreement on the legal and political framework besides establishing an independent body to facilitate the dialogue.
He pointed to their stance that the independent body must be comprised of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), the head of the East African regional block IGAD, a representative of the UN secretary general, and a representative of the UN African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
Arman further said they would not accept the dialogue coordination committee be chaired by Bashir, scoffing at veteran political leaders who took part in a roundtable meeting and allowed the latter to be “judge and executioner”.
He called for the annulling of all laws restricting freedoms and reaching an agreement on a package of measures to create an atmosphere conducive for dialogue besides ending the war and addressing the humanitarian crisis and described Sudan’s previous political roundtable experience as a failure, saying it neither ended the north-south civil war nor achieved political stability.
Arman said the rebel groups do not need safeguards from Bashir but they seek practical moves to address issues of millions of IDPs and refugees besides establishing an independent mechanism to lead the dialogue and arrive at a roadmap which leads to transitional arrangements.
In a televised address to the nation in January, Bashir announced a four-point plan for reform “to stop the war and bring peace, free political society, fight against poverty and revitalise national identity”.
He called for political forces and even rebel groups, on the condition they lay down their arms, to engage in dialogue aimed at meeting key objectives.
NCP officials, including Bashir, have brushed aside opposition calls for the 2015 elections to be delayed and the formation of a transitional government that would work on drafting a new constitution to prepare the country for the polls.
The opposition National Umma Party (NUP) and the PCP are the only major opposition parties to accept Bashir’s call for national dialogue so far.
Although both parties warned that they would pull out of dialogue with the NCP if progress stalls.
Secretary-general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, Yasser Arman (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)