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Umma party leader to return to Sudan

October 24 - 2016 CAIRO
NUP leader El Sadig El Mahdi (Suna)
NUP leader El Sadig El Mahdi (Suna)

After an exile of more than two years, the president of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) has decided to leave his residence in Egypt and return to Sudan.

In an interview with the Egyptian Almasry Alyoum newspaper published on Sunday, El Sadig El Mahdi said that a NUP committee has been formed to prepare his return.

The former Prime Minister of Sudan (1986-1989) said he had wanted to return to Khartoum after the signing of agreements between the government and the armed movements allied with the NUP about a cessation of hostilities in the country.

“I wanted to go back with some of those who took up arms [..]. As this did not happen, I decided to return [..] as I have popular and organisational responsibilities that need to be exercised from inside the country,” he said.

The Umma leader left Sudan in August 2014 after having been detained for one month. He was accused by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) 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.

In response, the NUP suspended its participation in the National Dialogue, initiated by President Al Bashir earlier that year, demanding the restoration of political liberties before returning to the negotiation table.

In December 2014, the NUP president signed the Sudan Appeal, a two-page communiqué calling for regime- change and democracy, together with the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF, an alliance of the main rebel movements), the National Consensus Forces (NCF, a coalition of opposition parties), and the Civil Society Initiative in Addis Ababa.


El Mahdi confirmed to Almasry Alyoum that he has been in contact with the Sudanese president earlier this month. Al Bashir told him during a telephone call that El Mahdi had left a vacuum and that he was looking forward to his return, also as the National Dialogue should be comprehensive. El Mahdi replied that he adheres to the AU roadmap for the peace talks and a broad dialogue, signed by the Sudanese government and the opposition this year.

The Umma leader does not fear that he will be held again. “There is no doubt that the regime deeply regrets my detention,”he said. “My detention has brought us certain gains. Therefore I do not fear another detention. You cannot threaten a fish with drowning it.”

He does not know what to expect from Khartoum. “The regime may be “friendly and consider my return an olive branch, or they take a hostile stance and see my return as support for confrontation. I do not know what they will do and I do not expect any guarantees”.

Peace talks

On 14 August, the last round of simultaneous negotiations between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) on the Two Areas (Blue Nile and South Kordofan), and the Justice and Equality Moment (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Movement-MM on Darfur, brokered by the AU in Addis Ababa collapsed.

Both sides accused the other of obstructing the peace talks. While the introduction of new issues by the JEM and SLM-MM caused the negotiations on Darfur to collapse, the provision of humanitarian aid to the war victims lead to a deadlock in the talks concerning the Two Areas.

The SPLM-N announced on Friday that it decided to suspend “all political engagement” with the Sudanese government after a report by Amnesty International about the Sudan government’s alleged use of chemical weapons in Darfur. The armed group will “be ready only to negotiate a humanitarian cessation of hostilities in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan”.  

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