Sudanese Opposition Mulling Peace Plan
An assembly of Sudanese opposition groups on Wednesday suspended meetings aimed at responding to an Egyptian-Libyan peace plan, but press reports said leaked information from the participants indicated an interim government might be part of the still-secret initiative.
Leaders of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), an umbrella organization for the southern rebels and northern opposition groups, have gathered in the Egyptian capital to focus on an east African initiative and the joint proposal by Egypt and Libya.
"This is the last chance to reach a concrete proposal for coordinating the two initiatives," because of new developments in the civil war and time lost since an Arab proposal was floated two years ago, NDA spokesman Hatem Al Sir Ali told AFP earlier this week.
The leadership of the Sudanese opposition assembly will reconvene Thursday in Cairo under the chairmanship of Mohammed Othman Al Merghani to hear the perspectives of all participants on the Egyptian-Libyan initiative.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian ambassador to Khartoum has presented a memorandum to the Sudanese government, which promised to reply in writing in a few days. The ambassador also delivered a message to the leader of the Sudanese Ummah Party, Al Sadeq Al Mahdi.
The Egyptian assistant foreign minister and director of the Sudan department, Mohammed Rafiq Khalil, said that the Egyptian-Libyan committee was waiting for the Sudanese to comment on their proposals.
“These proposals are considered the first practical step toward implementing the joint committee initiative, by holding a preliminary meeting followed by an inclusive meeting,” added Rafiq, indicating that Egypt and Libya would not favor one Sudanese side at the expense of the other.
He said it was now up to the Sudanese to respond to the proposals.
The Egyptian-Libyan proposal, although largely still secret, reportedly focuses on finding common ground between the Sudanese government and opposition.
This common ground is reportedly based on the Tripoli declaration agreed upon by all sides in the conflict, as well as the principles of unity and patriotism, citizens’ rights and responsibilities, and the acknowledgement of religious, cultural, and ethnic diversity.
The UAE daily Al Bayan said that most of the Sudanese leadership had showed cautious acceptance of the memorandum, considering it a set of principles suitable as a basis for a comprehensive political solution to the crisis.
The majority of the Sudanese factions reportedly accepted the memorandum, as it did not include items that would provoke either side, except for the call for an interim government to be entrusted with organizing comprehensive elections -- an idea rejected by the Khartoum government.
However, the memo did not address the issue of separating religion from the state, or the issue of autonomy. The latter are two urgent demands by the opposition assembly, particularly of the popular movement headed by John Garang.
Garang, whose Sudan People's Liberation Army has fought Sudan's Arab Muslim north since 1983, advocates a confederate state with two separate constitutions, so that animists and Christians will not be subject to Islamic law.
Khartoum insists on pushing for Islamic law throughout Sudan, and has rejected SPLA demands that it stop pumping oil as a condition for a ceasefire. The rebels say the government is using oil revenues to wage the war.
Nevertheless, most analysts agree that the initiative constitutes common ground for all sides and cannot be easily rejected.
The director of the Sudanese cultural and information center, Ahmed Al Bakri, said he thought that despite the secrecy of the Egyptian-Libyan proposal, all sides were certain that they represented the proper principles for all Sudanese parties.
Bakri said, “these proposals will face everyone with their historical responsibility to stop the bloodshed and maintain the unity, safety and security of Sudan, which faces eradication if clear thinking and patriotism do not come first.”
“All of the Sudanese parties must offer compromises in order to reach an acceptable formula,’’ added Bakri. “The Sudanese should formulate a clear vision, because the people cannot tolerate more pain.”
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)