January 22, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) is putting the final touches on a major proposal for political reform in Sudan which would form the basis for dialogue with other political parties.
- Sudan’s President Omer al-Bashir speaks after meeting with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, in the capital Juba, South Sudan Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 (AP Photo/Ali Ngethi)
Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir was reportedly working on this initiative since last year that was meant to set the stage for political transformation in a country gripped by conflict and crises for decades.
The visiting United States former president Jimmy Carter told reporters after meeting with Bashir on Tuesday that the latter informed him of his intention to announce important” political decisions in the coming days but offered no details.
Some aspects of the lengthy reform document prepared by the NCP was revealed by the al-Ayam newspaper and included
• Reaching peace deal with internal rivals through dialogue that would also be incorporated in a new constitution;
• Democratic transformation that would see the people enjoying freedom of association, freedom to form political parties and freedom of expression among others;
• Launching a program for poverty reduction that would eliminate claims of marginalization;
• Resolving the issue of the country’s identity and making citizenship the basis of all rights
On Wednesday Bashir held talks with the son of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Mohamed al-Hassan al-Mirghani and other party figures to lay out his vision for reform. He is expected to hold further meetings with other opposition parties on the same subject.
DUP leader Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani is currently traveling abroad.
The minister of Investment and leading NCP figure Mustafa Osman Ismail told reporters that Bashir exchanged with al-Mirghani views on national issues in order to reach a consensus on them in the coming period.
DUP Hatem al-Sir said that the meeting was made at the request of Bashir and described it as a good opportunity to deliberate on the overall political developments in the country. He said that dialogue between the two parties is the interest of the nation.
The DUP official went on to say that more detailed talks would be followed between the two sides through different channels.
Bashir’s assistant and NCP deputy chairman for party affairs Ibrahim Ghandour said at an open meeting with the leaders of the party in Nahr al-Neel state that reform pursued by the party was evident after top officials resigned from their government posts.
Last month, president Bashir who is also the chairman of the NCP issued presidential decrees appointing Bakri Hassan Salih as First Vice President, Hassabo Abdel-Rahman as 2nd Vice President and Ibrahim Ghandour as presidential assistant as well as decrees appointing 26 ministers and state ministers.
Ali Osman Taha who was viewed as the top Islamist figure in the government said he resigned as 1st VP to allow Bashir to implement his “change” vision. Other officials also said they tendered their resignations for the same reason.
The biggest surprise in the reshuffle was the departure of the powerful presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie from the government and the NCP leadership. The cabinet also witnessed the stepping down of veteran oil minister Awad Ahmed Al-Jaz, who remained in the government formation since 1989.
Ghandour stressed that this shakeup will be followed by a change in the policies of the state and the party according to scientific methodologies adding that the NCP seeks to accommodate all the people of Sudan without exclusion.
He also made a reference to the recent split in the party saying that the NCP doors are wide open for reform and criticism from inside without expressing views outside that are not in line with the party policies.
Late last year a group of NCP figures led by former presidential advisor Ghazi Salah al-Deen al-Attabani formed a new party which they named Reform Now Party (RNP).
Al-Attabani was expelled from the NCP last October in the wake of a memo he drafted, along with more than two dozen party figures the month before, calling for the reversal of a decision to lift fuel subsidies and an end to the violent measures taken against demonstrators who took to the streets to protest.
They also urged Bashir to form a mechanism for national reconciliation comprised of various political forces and assign the economic dossier to a professional national economic team.
“The legitimacy of your rule has never been at stake like it is today”, they said in a letter addressed to Bashir which was seen as a direct challenge to the president who is now the country’s longest-serving leader.
Ghandour urged opposition not to boycott the 2015 elections saying that no mature political party would forsake the opportunity to be an alternative to the current rule.
“We concur with the political forces on the principles and we will not disagree over government posts,” he said before adding that they recognize the crisis in the country.
“We acknowledge the existence of the crisis and will not be ashamed of it or look the other way. We will hold ourselves accountable before others do. We will proceed with comprehensive reform to overcome all obstacles,” he added.
Sudan’s opposition parties call for establishing a transitional government and holding a national conference with the participation of rebel groups to discuss a peaceful solution for the conflicts in Darfur region, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states.
The interim government would organize general elections once a political agreement on constitutional matters is reached, inaugurating a new democratic regime. But the NCP rejects this proposal saying opposition parties must simply prepare for the 2015 elections and that rebels should sign first peace accords.