BEIRUT

Middle East

Khartoum must do more before talks: opposition

Opposition leader of Umma Party and Sudan's former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi receives a hug from a supporter at his home in Omdurman after he was released, June 15, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

KHARTOUM: The release of Sudan’s former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi is not enough for the resumption of a national dialogue aimed at resolving the country’s multiple crises, a leading opposition figure said Wednesday.

Mahdi was freed Sunday, one month after state security agents detained him on treason-related charges in a case that sparked Western concern.

His arrest was one of several moves which raised questions about the government’s commitment to reform, despite talk of improved freedoms.

Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani, who founded the Reform Now opposition party in December, told AFP that his and other parties which had joined the dialogue met Tuesday “demanding the government to reverse all its latest actions against opposition.”

The release of Umma Party chief Mahdi met one of the opposition parties’ demands.

They also want authorities to free the Sudanese Congress Party leader Ibrahim al-Sheikh and other Sudanese activists, and called for the Al-Saiha newspaper to be able to resume publishing.

State security agents ordered Al-Saiha to halt its presses after the newspaper published allegations of official corruption.

Atabani said the parties, which met Tuesday, also demanded that a joint committee of government and opposition parties be convened.

This means “that sitting with the government and resuming the dialogue is subject to resetting the button to the situation prior to the arrest of Mahdi and imposition of the other measures,” he said.

Atabani, a former adviser to President Omar al-Bashir, started Reform Now after the ruling National Congress Party expelled him for dissent.

The Bashir regime has faced mounting challenges since the separation of South Sudan from Sudan three years ago.

In January, Bashir appealed for a national dialogue focused on attaining peace and renewal in the impoverished war-torn country.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 19, 2014, on page 10.

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