14 November 2012

Sudan's Al-Mahdi Agrees in Surprise Meeting With SPLM-N's Arman and PCP's Exiled Official to Unify Opposition

Khartoum — The leader of Sudan's opposition National Umma Party (NUP), Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, held a surprise meeting on Wednesday with the secretary-general of the armed rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), Yasir Arman, and the assistant secretary-general of the Islamist opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP), Ali Al-Haj.

In a joint statement seen by Sudan Tribune, the meeting that took place in London has reached an understanding to escalate opposition activities, and discussed issues of transition to a new political system.

London's meeting came as a surprise given the differences NUP is known to have with other allies in the opposition coalition National Consensus Forces (NCF), including the PCP, over the methods that should be used to change the regime.

Whereas NCF factions advocate an Arab Spring-style to approach the goal of regime change, Al-Mahdi opines that the opposition is not ready yet for such move and urges his allies to restructure the NCF and forge public consensus around the Democratic Alternative Charter (DAC) which should guide their struggle for regime change and peaceful transition to a democratic, decentralized system of governance in the event of a regime change.

NCF allies privately question whether Al-Mahdi is genuine about regime change at all given his repeated meetings with officials from the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), the latest of which took place last week with second Vice-President Al-Haj Adam Youssef.

The perception that Al-Mahdi is maintaining an equivocal position is fueled by the fact that while his party remains in the ranks of opposition, his son Abdel Rahman is serving as an assistant to President Al-Bashir.

According to the joint release, London's meeting commended the call Al-Mahdi made last week for his supporters to hold peaceful sit-ins to protest the government's insistence on rejecting reforms.

The three opposition figures agreed to escalate political activities and dialogue about the transitional period agreed under the DAC. They also agreed that the current Sudanese situation requires escalation of unifying political parties, civil society groups and the rebel coalition Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), of which SPLM-N is a key member, in order to reach the goal of a comprehensive constitutional conference.

The attendants of the meeting pledged to develop an intensive outreach campaign targeting members of the international community in order to convey their views on the issues facing Sudan and the dangers that the country is being dragged to by the policies of the regime.

The meeting is likely to alert the NCP due to its sensitivity to any contacts or cooperation between opposition parties and rebel armed groups like the SPLM-N which the NCP refuses to negotiate with and accuses it of being a proxy force for South Sudan.

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