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Journalists blocked as crowd welcomes El Mahdi back in Sudan

January 27 - 2017 KHARTOUM/OMDURMAN
Imam El Sadig El Mahdi addresses a large crowd to welcome his return to Sudan on 26 January 2017 (RD)
Imam El Sadig El Mahdi addresses a large crowd to welcome his return to Sudan on 26 January 2017 (RD)

Thousands of Sudanese rallied to receive Imam El Sadig El Mahdi, the President of the National Umma Party, who returned to Khartoum after an exile of more than two years on Thursday afternoon. The prominent leader said he wants to resign from the Umma party.

Journalists were unable to report on El Mahdi's arrival as the security serviced prevented them from entering Khartoum airport. Reporter Abdelbasit Idris was detained for some time. Delegations of people coming from White Nile and Sennar states were reportedly blocked from entering Khartoum city, but allowed in later after the end of the reception ceremony.

In the city a large crowd of people moved in a procession (video) toward El Hijra Mosque in Wad Nubawi, where the opposition leader was greeted joyfully. The former Prime-Minister of Sudan addressed the thousands of people in a speech, stressing his commitment to the road map for peace and to peacefully achieving the objectives of the Sudan Appeal coalition.

“I have sent, in the name of the group, a letter to [African Union] mediator Thabi Mbeki to meet with the forces of the Sudan Appeal... Although I am keen to be accompanied in my return by representatives of all the elements of the Sudan Appeal, this is not possible before taking the appropriate measures.

“I welcome the decision of a cessation of hostilities for six months, however this measure requires agreement with other parties as well as the agreement on monitoring it.” He said to exert “all possible efforts for the flow of aid to ensure that it reaches the intended recipients”.

Resigning

El Mahdi announced his willingness to resign from the leadership of the National Umma Party, but only after his party has hold a general congress, of which he did not mention a planned date. The Imam of the Ansar order inherited leadership of one of the oldest parties in Sudan in 1964.

He welcomed the release of a number of prisoners of political parties this week and demanded the release of all the political detainees, including Sheikh Abbas El Sibai, Dr Mudawi Ibrahim, and his colleagues.

Tasks he said to focus on after his return include addressing the issue of ethnic and tribal polarisation that threaten the social fabric in Sudan, and he announced to travel the country to hold reconciliations with the concerned authorities.

Escape

Last year the Umma party leader said that he does not fear that the government will detain him again. El Mahdi left Sudan in August 2014 after having been detained for one month. He was accused by the National Intelligence and Security Service of undermining the Constitution. El Mahdi had denounced the widespread attacks against civilians in Kordofan and Darfur by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) commanded by the NISS.

He announced his desire to leave his residency in Egypt and return to Sudan last October, after the signing of agreements between the government and the armed movements allied with the NUP about a cessation of hostilities in the country.

El Mahdi headed a democratically elected government in 1986 until he was overthrown in a 1989 coup that brought incumbent President Omar Al Bashir to power.

Journalists prevented

The Sudanese Journalists Network issued a statement in which it claimed that members of the security apparatus beat and held journalist Abdelbasit Idris detained for some time and confiscated his mobile phone.

The network condemned the security service preventing journalists from performing their duty and assaulting them while covering important events in the country.

Photo below: Thousands of people listen to the speech of Imam El Sadig El Mahdi on 26 January (RD)

Procession for returning El Sadig El Mahdi in Khartoum, 26 January 2017

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