Sudanese President Omar al Bashir has ordered the release of political prisoners and easing of restrictions on political parties to “encourage success in a national dialogue”.
Speaking on Sunday evening at the opening session of talks aimed at national reconciliation, involving the leaders of more than 50 political parties, Bashir said he would also remove restrictions on the press and made a commitment to allow armed groups’ participation in the process.
“The aim behind the decisions is preparing the stage for dialogue between the political parties for reaching a comprehensive peace in Sudan,” Bashir said, according to state news agency SUNA.
Bashir added he had “directed the authorities concerned in all the states and local governments across Sudan to allow the Sudanese parties to exercise their political activities inside and outside their headquarters without restrictions, within the parameters of the law”.
He said he had given orders to release all political prisoners “who have not committed criminal offences”.
The opposition Umma party leader Sadiq al Mahdi described the decisions as “compatible” with what his party had called for.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Popular Congress Party, Hassan al Turabi, called for seeking assistance from “impartial experts” to supervise the national dialogue ahead of the next general elections.
Critics have accused both al Mahdi and al Turabi of pretending to represent the opposition and of colluding with the ruling party to prolong Bashir’s stay in power.
Analysts also say Bashir’s political dialogue is just a way for the elite to hang on to power without properly addressing the country’s problems.
Security blocks meeting
A leading opposition party in Sudan on Monday accused security agents of preventing it from holding a discussion forum.
Agents also detained Emad Al-Dien Hashim, leader of the party’s student wing, the Reform Now party said in a statement, according to the AFP news agency.
Bashir’s ex-adviser Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani founded Reform Now in December after the ruling National Congress Party ousted him.
Reform Now said government security agents blocked two of its top leaders and others from entering Al-Ahlia University to attend the party forum, which was unable to take place.
Then they “attacked” and beat Hashim before taking him to an unknown location, the party alleged.
“This raises two possibilities: Either these security agents are working outside the president’s control, or they have an agenda against the dialogue,” the Reform Now statement said.
Opposition rejects offer
Other groups refused to take part in the “dialogue” until all their conditions are met.
The Sudanese opposition alliance, a coalition of 17 parties led by the Communist party, rejected Bashir’s offer to join “national dialogue”.
In a statement, the body said “since Bashir announced the idea in a speech on January 27, the ruling regime has not taken a single step to pave the way for holding a serious and effective dialogue”.
The alliance listed their demands; that all laws restricting public liberties should be repealed, internal conflicts should be ended and their humanitarian ramifications fully addressed.
The coalition also called for releasing all detainees convicted for their roles in politics.
The group has also demanded that Bashir’s government accept that the dialogue would lead to the formation of a full transitional government.