Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sudanese rivals agree Renaissance Dam an Ethiopian affair

The leader of Sudan’s Popular Congress Party (PCP) Hassan al-Turabi met with Sudanese President and head of the National Congress Party (NCP) Omar al-Bashir after a 15-year rupture between the two, during which Turabi was arrested several times.

According to deputy secretary general of the PCP Ali al-Hajj, both parties agreed during the meeting that the events in Egypt were a coup against the legitimacy of [deposed] President Mohammed Morsi — a stance that contradicts that of the Sudanese left, a former ally of Turabi — and that the Renaissance Dam issue is an Ethiopian one and Egypt has nothing to do with it.

In a statement made to Azzaman from Germany where he has been residing for years now, Hajj said that the PCP, led by Turabi, has not paid allegiance yet to the Muslim Brotherhood. Turabi shares the international group’s stance, as he considers that what happened in Egypt is a coup against the legitimacy of Morsi. He added that neither Qatar nor the Muslim Brotherhood have mediated between Bashir and Turabi to normalize ties. He, however, revealed to Azzaman that there was a [previous] Qatari mediation between the two parties.

According to Hajj, Qatar is more interested in the issue of Darfur. He stressed that the highlight of the meeting was the Sudanese president’s call for a national dialogue.

He said that during the meeting, both parties stressed the need to include all parties in the dialogue, particularly the armed movements, by overcoming the lack of trust between them and the government, to be able to come to Khartoum. They also defined the dialogue mechanisms, time frame, agenda and outputs.

In response to a question on whether there are guarantees for the success of the meeting after the long break between Bashir and Turabi, Hajj said that there are no guarantees. However, the transparency of the dialogue is necessary for the success of the meeting, as is revealing its results to the Sudanese people.

In response to a question on the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the reconciliation between Bashir and Turabi, Hajj told Azzaman, “We in the PCP are not part of the international Muslim Brotherhood, as we have not paid allegiance to it yet.” He added, “Our relations with the group are based on coordination. We share the Brotherhood’s position, as we consider that what happened in Egypt is a coup against legitimacy and democracy.”

Egyptian officials accuse the Sudanese government of harboring leaders of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood since the ouster of Mohammed Morsi, and of supporting armed groups in Egypt.

Hajj told Azzaman that what happened in Egypt was a coup and a setback for democracy in the country.

He added that Qatar did not mediate the reconciliation process between Bashir and Turabi.

Qatar is more interested in the Darfur crisis and the presence of armed groups in this region. Nevertheless, Hajj revealed, “Qatar had previously held meetings with us to bridge the rift between Bashir and Turabi.”

Turabi will not hold any official post and did not agree with Bashir on this issue during the meeting. However, he wants the national dialogue to be managed by an independent figure who has nothing to do with partisanship and has the trust of all parties participating in the dialogue.

Hajj stressed that the meeting between Bashir and Turabi was held against the backdrop of the crisis in Egypt, while Sudan’s left wing — an ally of Turabi — rushed to support the coup against Morsi.

He affirmed that Bashir and Turabi agree that what happened in Egypt is a coup, even though Bashir did not say it publicly.

Hajj explained to Azzaman that what the Egyptian government is saying about the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a political promotion and that the dam is not a Sudanese issue, but rather an Ethiopian cause.

Bashir is trying to extend a hand to the opposition — to which the PCP, led by Turabi, is affiliated — as part of the renaissance policy that he announced in January, at a time when the country is witnessing many rebel movements and a deep economic crisis amid international isolation.

However, the president's opposition believes that his proposal to hold dialogue is only a means to remain in power without a genuine settlement for the numerous problems the country is facing.

Following the meeting that lasted 90 minutes, the PCP secretary of foreign relations, Bashir Adam Rahma, said, “We agree that the national dialogue should begin immediately.” Turabi was one of the main figures involved in the 1989 coup that was backed by Islamists and through which Bashir came to power. Under Bashir’s regime, Sudan was known for granting asylum to Islamist militants, including al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who settled in Sudan from 1991 to 1996.

The struggle for power between Bashir and Turabi resulted in the removal of the latter from the ruling NCP after 10 years. Then, the Islamic leader Turabi established the PCP, and later became the main opponent of Bashir; during that period, he was imprisoned several times.

Although they had met unofficially since the rupture, Friday [March 14] marked the first official meeting; it comes in advance of elections scheduled for 2014.

Ali Osman Taha, who resigned from the post of vice president in December, and Nafie Ali Nafie, the Islamist leader who had served as adviser to the president, joined the meeting between Bashir and Turabi on Friday.