KHARTOUM: Sudan has banned the main opposition party, closed its offices and made sweeping arrests across the country, its secretary general said Sunday, as fighting continued in a key Sudan People’s Liberation Movement stronghold.
“The [ruling] National Congress Party has banned the SPLM in all states and arrested a large number of its members and seized property and documents belonging to it in different states and localities,” Yasser Arman said in a statement.
Arman gave a detailed list of more than 10 party members and local leaders who have allegedly been arrested since Tuesday in various different states, including West Darfur, Gezira, North Kordofan and Sennar.
“What is happening now, in different towns and villages in Sudan against members and leaders of the SPLM, is something that was organized and planned over a long period, with the aim of … eliminating the SPLM as a major national and democratic force in north Sudan,” Arman said.
Other party members said the government had shut down all the offices of the party’s northern branch, the SPLM-North, Saturday.
The ex-rebel movement is the ruling party of South Sudan, which formally split when the south gained independence from the north on July 9, after decades of devastating conflict between government forces and southern rebels.
Sudan’s deputy Information Minister, Sanaa Hamad, confirmed that Khartoum had declared the SPLM illegal in the North, saying it was not a legally registered political party following southern secession.
“But this situation will not have an impact on the members of the party as individuals … The only people who have been arrested were involved in illegal activities,” she told AFP.
The move against the SPLM-North comes shortly after deadly fighting erupted in Blue Nile between the Sudanese army and ex-rebel troops loyal to the elected governor, Malik Agar, the party’s chairman.
President Omar al-Bashir sacked Agar from his job Friday and appointed a caretaker military leader, General Yahia Mohammad Kheir, after declaring a state of emergency.
SPLM sources said the fighting continued in Blue Nile Sunday, while the United Nations said 16,000 people – the entire estimated population – were reported to have fled from the flashpoint border town of Kurmuk across the border into Ethiopia.
The Khartoum government has shown itself increasingly determined to assert its authority within its new borders following southern secession, moving to disarm rebel troops.
It has accused Juba of interfering in Blue Nile, and in nearby South Kordofan, where a similar conflict has raged for three months, between the army and the SPLM’s Nuba militiamen.
Both states are located north of Sudan’s new international border, but were key battlegrounds during the north-south civil war and have large numbers of SPLM-North supporters and troops who fought alongside the ex-southern rebels.
Arman, Saturday, called the army’s aggression in Blue Nile a “coup” against Agar, which, he said, demonstrated that constitutional change in Sudan was impossible under the present regime.
He vowed to fight for regime change through mass protest and armed struggle, in cooperation with the three main Darfuri rebel groups, who the SPLM-North signed an agreement with last month.