‘Sudan govt, SRF rebels may meet in South Africa’: El Mahdi
Preparations are underway for a meeting between the Sudanese government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) to discuss the cessation of hostilities in the country.
The leader of the National Umma Party (NUP), El Sadig El Mahdi, said in an interview with Radio Dabanga, of which the second part was broadcast on Wednesday, that the signatories of the Paris Declaration, the SRF and the NUP, welcome the idea of a preparatory meeting with the Sudanese government.
El Mahdi reported that the SRF had received a letter from the chief mediator of the AU High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), Thabo Mbeki, requesting their consent regarding a new road map for peace talks. “We replied that we agree with the new proposals for the ending of hostilities, provided that the Sudanese government recognises the SRF, and the meeting will be held outside Sudan.”
“Arrangements are being made to convene this preparatory meeting, a kind of shadow conference, in South Africa,” he revealed.
“We hope that in the end we will be able to finally agree on the cessation of hostilities and the provision of humanitarian aid to the affected. The ceasefire is to be comprehensive, and has to be monitored.”
The NUP leader said that in the reply to Mbeki “we emphasised the need for confidence-building measures, starting with the release of all political detainees, guarantees for basic public freedoms, and the annulment of court sentences regarding and number of rebel leaders and affiliates, in order to create a conducive atmosphere for further negotiations.”
The separate peace talks on Darfur, and on the Two Areas (South Kordofan and the Blue Nile), held in Addis Ababa under the auspices of the AU, both collapsed early December.
The Sudanese government delegation insisted on restricting the negotiations to a cease-fire, and amendments of the security arrangements in the already existing peace documents for Darfur and the Two Areas. Yet, the rebel groups, united in the SRF, seek “a comprehensive peaceful settlement, and equal citizenship as inseparable elements to establish a democratic Sudan,” Yasir Arman, head of the SPLM-N negotiation team told Radio Dabanga on 4 December from the Ethiopian capital.
Sudanese officials have reiterated their refusal to recognise the SRF, an alliance of the SPLM-N and the main Darfuri armed movements, as partner in the peace negotiations. The SRF, as stated in the Paris Declaration, co-signed by the NUP in the French capital on 8 August this year, calls for the building of a “new Sudan”, based on equal citizenship and democratic principles.
The Sudan Appeal, an extension of the Paris Declaration, was agreed on by the SRF, NUP, the National Consensus Forces (NCF, a coalition of opposition parties), and the Civil Society Initiative (CSI), in Addis Ababa on 3 December. Faroug Abu Eisa, head of the NCF, and Dr amin Mekki Madani, CSI’s chairman, were detained by the security apparatus after their return to Khartoum. They are still being held, accused of “undermining the constitutional order, and violently opposing the authorities”, charges punishable with the death penalty.
In August this year, the Court of Appeal in Sinja, in eastern Sudan, upheld the death penalties in absentia for Malik Agar, chairman of the SPLM-N and the SRF, Yasir Arman, SPLM-N Secretary-General, and SRF FA officer, and 15 other SPLM-N/SRF leaders.
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