Addis Ababa — Delegations of Sudan's national dialogue committee and opposition s on Thursday signed an agreement "on the national dialogue and constitutional process" with the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The identical eight-point text was signed in separate documents by Sadiq al-Mahdi leader of the National Umma Party, Malik Agar chairman of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front from the opposition side. The two member of the national dialogue subcommittee for external liaison Ahmed Saad Omer and Ghazi Salah al Din al-Attabani for the Committee of 7+7.
The signing ceremony was attended by the two national dialogue committees representatives, the SRF delegation and the AUHIP chief. Mahdi already returned to the Egyptian capital where he resides.
"Comprehensive political settlement is the ideal option to resolve the Sudanese problem, says the signed text. It further provides that "stopping war, reaching cessation of hostilities and addressing the humanitarian situation shall be an absolute priority in confidence building measures".
The declaration of principles reaffirms also that "ensuring the freedoms and basic human rights, release of political detainees and sentenced detainees are top priorities for confidence building and for the creation of a conducive environment".
The Sudanese government and the opposition parties participating in the dialogue signed a similar deal on 9 August. Also, the SRF rebels and the opposition NUP signed Paris Declaration which includes analogous principles to end war and re-establish democracy in Sudan.
However, the signed agreement for the first time formally commits the government, the rebels and one opposition party. The security service prevented a delegate from the opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) to travel to Addis Ababa on Thursday morning.
The agreement provides that the signatories have to engage in discussions on a framework agreement before to start the national dialogue process but it does not say where the road map shall be discussed or if the AUHIP will play a role in it.
"The commencement of dialogue and constitutional process shall start upon agreeing on rules and positions," says the text. It further provides that the parties have also to agree on a timeframe.
In an allusion to the possible conduct of the process inside the country, the agreement says the "necessary guarantees shall be put on place for the conduct and the implementation of the dialogue and the constitutional process".
The SRF rebels and the opposition forces demand to set up a new mechanism for the national dialogue and reject its chairmanship by president Omer al-Bashir.
The opposition parties also demand to participate in the peace talks over Darfur, Blue Nile, and South Kordofan.
The SRF proposed-roadmap for national dialogue mentions the need for talks on war areas and security arrangements before the constitutional process.
The declaration of principles provides that the process shall be inclusive, and all the stakeholders shall participate in the process.
No date however was announced for the follow up of this agreement. But, diplomatic sources close to the discussions say AUHIP chief would meet Sudanese president Omer al-Bashir next week to discuss the next step.
Officials of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) says the process should be held inside the Sudan, asserting that the government is ready to provide the needed guarantees for the rebels groups to leave the country if the process fail to reach an agreement.
Presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour was two weeks ago in Berlin where he called on German and European governments to support the internal dialogue process reaffirming his government seriousness in this political enterprise.
However it is not clear what role the German government can play as the NCP refuses any regional or international involvement in the national dialogue.
During his recent visit to Khartoum different NCP officials said that Mbeki's role will be only limited to the monitoring of the political process.