Omdurman — On Wednesday, States Council representative Abdelrahman Banat announced that there are seven prisoners of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and 21 prisoners from the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) at El Huda prison in Sudan's second city of Omdurman, who have not yet been released despite the presidential amnesty of March 2017.
He attributed the non-release of the prisoners to a residual complaint filed against them by an army officer because of a battle between the movements and the army in May 2010.
A total of 258 rebel fighters who were captured during various battles with government forces were released from the infamous Kober prison in Khartoum Bahri on March 9 last year, following a presidential amnesty.
The rebel fighters were captured during the assault of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) on Omdurman in 2008, and other battles in Darfur, including Donki Baashim, Goz Dungo, Fanaga and Kulbus. Many of them faced the death sentence.
The decree by President Omar Al-Bashir announced on March 8, 2017 lifted the death penalty for 66 defendants and give amnesty to 193 other defendants. It was initially treated with scepticism by rebel leaders. However, the actual release of the men at Kober prison the next day was greeted with joy.
Al Bashir: "The decision was issued to promote the spirit of national reconciliation and create a climate for sustainable peace in the country under the stage at which the will of the people of Sudan is manifested in the recommendations of the national dialogue and document."
The presidential amnesty was met with praise at home and abroad. Opposition parties, including the National Umma Party, the Sudanese Communist Party, the Sudan Congress Party, and the Democratic Unionists told Radio Dabanga at the time that they welcomed the positive impact the decision may bring to the peace process. The Darfur Bar Association also praised the release.
The then chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Dr Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma, welcomed the release and commutation of sentences. In a press statement following Al Bashir's announcement, she said to be "cognisant of the fact that this release has been a critical sticking point in the negotiations between the Government of Sudan and the armed movements".