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Al Bashir offers ceasefire, amnesty for rebels in Sudan's dialogue

August 21 - 2015 KHARTOUM
Former President of South Africa and chairman of the AU High-level Implementation Panel, Thabo Mbeki, visits President of Sudan Omar Hassan Al Bashir in Khartoum in 2008. The AUHIP brokers the peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and the rebel SPLM-N in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states (Reuters)
Former President of South Africa and chairman of the AU High-level Implementation Panel, Thabo Mbeki, visits President of Sudan Omar Hassan Al Bashir in Khartoum in 2008. The AUHIP brokers the peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and the rebel SPLM-N in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states (Reuters)

The President of Sudan has said he is ready to declare amnesty for armed rebel groups which wish to participate in the country's national dialogue, and to implement a two-month ceasefire in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Meanwhile, the chairman of the AUHIP has suggested to find a way out for the president from the indictment by an international court, because he is needed to “help the Sudanese achieve peace”.

President Omar Al Bashir made his declarations on Thursday evening while speaking at a meeting of the general assembly of the national dialogue, attended by 50 national figures. He expressed the government's “readiness for a two-month ceasefire in order to hold the dialogue in a healthy atmosphere and high patriotism”.

He reiterated Khartoum's commitment to implement the outcomes of the national dialogue, which is scheduled to be launched this October.

Al Bashir further announced that there are no political prisoners in the country's prisons. There are only two detainees, he said, who are being held for involvement in the recruitment of men for terrorist movements. He also told the general assembly of the national dialogue that he refuses to release imprisoned rebels who participated in attacks and killed people.

Political detainees

The opposition party SCP (Sudanese Congress Party) has described Al Bashir's declaration that the prisons are free of political detainees as “lies”. Mastour Ahmed Mohamed Adam, the political secretary of the SCP, told Radio Dabanga that six of his party members now spend most of their days at the security services' offices, where their property is being kept, and considers them “detained”. Mohamed Adam disclosed that among the six 'detainees' are Khaled Omar Yousef, Majdi Okasha, Wifag Mohamed Gurashi, Bashir Mohamed, and Mohamed Osman Nugdallah.

The leader of the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP), Hassan El Turabi, called on President Omer Al Bashir to translate his pledges for a ceasefire into action, and to allow humanitarian assistance in the mentioned regions, where also armed movements are based. He spoke to reporters after the meeting of the national dialogue general assembly on Thursday.

ICC charges

Rebel leader Abdelwahid El Nur of the SLM-AW ridiculed Al Bashir's declaration of amnesty to the rebel groups in an interview with the radio. “Al Bashir's dialogue is a dialogue with himself, of which we are not part. […] He is wanted for trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. He is the one who needs amnesty.”

“The wanted President Al Bashir is the one who needs amnesty from the International Criminal Court.”

The Sudanese president is a critical component of the peacemaking process, and should be spared from an arrest and appearance before the ICC, the head of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) told reporters this week at the Thabo Mbeki Leadership Institute in Pretoria, South Africa. Mbeki was commenting on the controversy that erupted after Al Bashir managed to visit South Africa, an ICC member, to participate in the AU summit without being arrested in June.

The AUHIP chairman suggested that it is now time to find a way out for Al Bashir from the ICC indictment through dialogue with the Hague-based court. “If the Sudanese decided that he was irrelevant to the peace process they could have arrested him and sent him over to the Hague but they didn’t want to do that because they say that he is required to achieve peace,” he added.

Mbeki has invited 15 leaders of the Sudan Appeal group of opposition and rebel groups for a two-day meeting in the Ethiopian capital today to discuss their stances on the current stalemate. El Nur's SLM-AW and the National Consensus Forces, however, announced they will not join.

Following the meeting between the acting head of Unamid and the three Darfuri holdout rebel movements (the SLM-AW, the Justice and Equality Movement, and the SLM faction led by Minni Minawi) in Paris last weekend, El Nur criticised that “a conducive climate for the peace negotiations to commence” currently lacks.


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