8 January 2013

Sudan: Opposition Party Insists On Islamic Constitution

Khartoum — The students arm of the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP) rejected a clause included in the newly signed opposition charter saying it suggests a separation of religion and the state.

Islamist opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) (Reuters)

PCP along with most major Sudanese opposition parties and armed rebel groups signed the charter nicknamed "New Dawn" in Uganda last weekend which makes its explicit goal to overthrow the regime dominated by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

The signatories called for establishing a democratic state that does not mix religion with politics. It also speaks on the need to address issues of justice especially related to crimes allegedly committed by the regime in Darfur and South Kordofan. They also call for respecting religious and cultural diversity.

In a statement released on Tuesday night, PCP students said they "categorically reject any reference to the separation of religion from political life or even marginalizing it and that this issue is a fundamental principle that cannot be overlooked under any circumstances or pressure whether it be internal or external".

The press release said that the "New Dawn" accord contains provisions "contrary to the principles of the Islamic movement" as well as agreements signed by the forces of National Consensus Forces (NCF) in the "Democratic Alternative Document" of which the PCP is a signatory".

PCP students stressed their adherence to the NCF deal saying it postpones any disagreement while focusing on the goal of toppling the regime of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir who came into power in 1989.

Al-Turabi who is the PCP chief was the coup's mastermind but fell out with Bashir a decade later moving him to become of the regime's fiercest critics. He was in and out of jail for extended time periods following his dispute with the Sudanese president.

A few months ago al-Turabi said he remains committed to the goal of an Islamic constitution while saying that the NCP regime is "Un-Islamic". This puts him in rare agreement with Bashir and other government officials who say that application of Islamic Shar'ia law is non-negotiable.

PCP students also objected to a four year interim period following the ouster of the regime saying it should be limited to a year. They pointed out that that they reached an understanding with other parties that the transitional period should not exceed two and a half years adding that it is enough time for political parties to prepare for elections.

They also took exception to the use of arms in the struggle against the regime insisting that they are committed to peaceful means only.

The position of PCP students which appears to be also endorsed by the party's leadership deals another blow to the charter after the National Umma Party (NUP) also expressed reservations yesterday to the accord they signed as well.

Later the Political Secretary General of the PCP said that they did not authorize their representatives to sign but to simply conduct a dialogue with other powers and particularly rebel movements. He concurred with the PCP students organization's position.

In Khartoum an NCP official lambasted the "New Dawn" charter saying it is actually the manifesto of the Sudan revolutionary Front (SRF) which is comprised mainly of the armed rebel groups.

The NCP organizational sector chief Hamed Sideeg said that the talk about alleged war crimes committed in different part of Sudan clearly carries "Zionist" fingerprints similar to the Holocaust in Germany and the Apartheid in South Africa.

Sideeg urged the opposition parties to determine their position on their representatives who signed it and on the issue of separating religion from the state.

In a related issue, the Just Peace Forum (JPF) rightwing party led by Al-Tayeb Mustafa slammed the charter and called on the government to mobilize the people for "Jihad" against it.

Mustafa, who is Bashir's uncle, also said that Khartoum should arm South Sudan rebels in response to what he said was Juba's support to rebel groups in Sudan.

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