Mahdi(L):  Workable compromise ?
  

In a letter published by Mahdi’s Umma party, the leader proposed that Khartoum

serve as the "administrative and national capital of the country, subject to the laws of the federal constitution," which does not require Sharia.

 

The capital is made up of Khartoum, Omdurman and Khartoum-North, with Mahdi proposing the latter two be governed by Sharia.

  

Mahdi proposed that an interim government be formed in the first two years of the six-year transitional period.

  

Such a government would be composed of the current government, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and "symbolic representatives" of other political parties in order to "guarantee free and honest elections" under a new constitution to be drafted in two years.

  

Meanwhile, a pro-government Islamic organisation on Sunday handed visiting chief Kenyan mediator Lazaro Sumbeiyow a memorandum slamming the opposition call to abrogate Sharia laws in the capital.

  

The complaint was submitted by the Popular Organisation of the Defence of the Faith and Homeland (PODFH), whose chairman is Hussein Suleiman Abusalih, a former foreign minister.

  

"Islamic Sharia has been applied in Sudan for centuries except during the colonial rule," said the memorandum which was read by Abusalih.

  

The Islamist government and its ruling National Congress party had earlier rejected the demand by Mahdi's Umma Party, another northern-based opposition party and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army to drop Sharia (Islamic) law for the capital.

 

Secular law

 

During a meeting late last month in Cairo, Mahdi, the SPLA and Mohammed Osman al-Mirghani, the head of the northern-based opposition Democratic Union Party, called for Khartoum to be secular.

  

Hassan al-Turabi's Islamist opposition party, the Popular National Congress, and the SPLA also signed a deal in London last week saying the capital should be ruled by secular law.

  

Negotiations in the Kenyan town of Machakos last July produced a landmark deal under which southern Sudan will have six years of administrative autonomy and not be subject to the Islamic laws applied in the north.

  

At the end of the six years, its people will be asked to vote on whether they want to stay part of the country or secede.

 

Sudan's civil war has since 1983 pitted the Khartoum government, representing the Arabised north, against the SPLA, based in the country's south, home to many Christians and animists.