Monday, February 9, 2015

South Sudan: President downplays opposition boycott of polls

The opposition National Umma Party (NUP) and the Islamist group Sa’ihoon Sunday agreed on the need to postpone the electoral process till after a comprehensive political solution in Sudan.

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NUP leader Sadiq al-Mahdi (L) with the Sa’ihoon secretary general Fatah Ala’eem Abdel-Hai in Cairo on 8 February 2015 (Photo NUP)
Fatah Ala’eem Abdel-Hai
Sa’ihoon, which encompasses committed Islamists and former Popular Defence Forces (PDF) combatants, distanced themselves from the regime and call for political reforms since 2013. Several of leaders had been accused of preparing a coup d’état.

The secretary-general of Reform and Renaissance Initiative (RRI), which is a political body gathering the former Islamist fighters, Fatah Alaeem Abdel-Hai held a metting with the NUP leader Sadiq al-Mahdi in Cairo where he resides since the signing of Paris Declaration with the rebel groups in August 2014.

Al-Mahdi and Abdel-Hai agreed that the elections should be held within the framework of a comprehensive political settlement, otherwise it would be meaningless, said a statement released following the meeting on Sunday.

The government says determined to organise general elections in the country next April and rejects calls by all the opposition forces to postpone it. However, unconfirmed reports say the government plans postpone the legislative elections and only hold the presidential election.

The two parties discussed the need for a joint action based on the rejection of the war, achievement of a just and comprehensive peace, full democratic transformation, the statement further said.

Last December, Sa’ihoon secretary general held a similar meeting with the SPLM-N secretary general Yasir Arman in Addis Ababa, following what the rebel groups decided to release 20 prisoners of war.

Observers noted that Abdel-Hai was not arrested by the security service after his meeting with the rebel leader.

The government bans contacts with the Sudanese Revolutionary Front factions and arrested several opposition leaders for signing a political agreement on peace and democratic reforms with them

(ST)The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir downplayed plans by opposition forces to launch an elections boycott campaign saying that these parties have no weight among people in the street.

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Omer Hassan al-Bashir gestures to supporters during his visit to Diwayaem town in White Nile State on July 7, 2011. (Reuters)
Bashir, who addressed the opening ceremony of the general convention of the Umma Federal Party in Khartoum on Saturday, said that the boycott is to cover up their political weaknesses.

"They should have rallied their supporters, but they know their weight and they are without any popular weight and if they truly had supporters they would have ran in the elections," he said.

The Sudanese opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) said last month that the campaign will encompass addressing people in commercial markets and places of public gatherings to urge them to boycott the elections.

“Leave” is the slogan picked by NCF for the campaign and people will be using ballot papers with “I am boycotting” written on them.

The campaign was officially started on Wednesday at the headquarters of the National Umma Party (NUP) with hundreds who gathered to sign up for the boycott and carried signs saying “Leave” and “Boycott the blood elections” and chanted “Freedom, peace and justice”.

Bashir said many people at home and abroad considered his call for national dialogue an opportunity to implement what they could not with do through wars in South Sudan, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states and after the failure of the diplomatic and economic blockade and the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments.

"We will invite them as [foreign] observers at the opening session, and to hear the recommendations in the final session but the dialogue will be purely Sudanese without facilitators or others," he added.

"No one is more aware and keen than us on resolving the issues of Sudan to advise us," noting that Yemen took serious steps to address their crisis through dialogue but is now in a worse situation because of the intervention of international mediators.

"Yemen is [now] lost," he said.

Bashir launched the national dialogue initiative more than 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.

Sudanese President stressed that final preparations for kickoff of national dialogue are almost complete as well as those for societal dialogue to come up with an agreed-upon as a platform for the people of Sudan’s.

He scoffed at some unspecified parties who saw the call for dialogue as a sign of weakness after which they started to talk about national and transitional government.

He renewed rejection of any form of transitional or national government and pointed out that the next government will be formed in accordance with the programs and the elections.

He emphasized his unwillingness to repeat the experience of the post-Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) government in which many parties were part of it in accordance with the peace agreement.

He saluted the forces that have chosen to accept the dialogue and contest in the elections, stressing that the electoral process will be characterized by integrity and transparency, in light of an independent election commission that was chosen by all political forces.

He pointed out that elections in all third world countries has the support and finance from foreign organizations, but stressed that Sudan will not receive any foreign funding.

"The upcoming elections will be financed by the Sudanese people from their own money so that no one dictates any conditions on us and we will remain free in our country," Bashir added.

Last month, Bashir criticized the decision of some unspecified foreign organizations not to provide financial support for the elections, but assured that his country is capable of financing the elections without external funding.

The ruling party rejected calls by Sudanese opposition to postpone the general elections scheduled for April until after the national dialogue and formation of a transitional government and insists that it is a constitutional requirement that must be met.

(Sudan Tribune)

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