Thousands of Sudanese Cheer Opposition Leader's Return from Exile in Egypt
Tens of thousands of supporters Thursday welcomed home opposition leader Ahmed Al Mirghani from 12 years of exile in Egypt, in what was touted as another step toward reconciliation in war-torn Sudan, reported AFP.
Mirghani, deputy head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), arrived on a flight from Egypt.
Walls and utility poles were plastered with portraits of Mirghani, the younger brother of Mohammed Osman al-Mirghani, leader of both the DUP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the opposition umbrella movement.
The backbone of the party is the Khatmiyah, a moderate Sufi Muslim religious sect with a strong presence nationwide that counts the younger Mirghani as a leading member.
Senior government officials were also at hand at the airport.
The secretary general of the ruling National Congress, Ibrahim Ahmed Omar, climbed half-way up the steps to the plane to greet Mirghani.
Leading DUP and Khatmiyah officials and other government officials, including Presidential Affairs Minister Salah Mohamed Saleh, waited by the aircraft.
After a brief stay in the VIP room, where journalists were barred, Mirghani was driven off in a motorcade, while thousands of followers filled the front of the airport and lined the avenues.
Welcoming banners and portraits of Mirghani, his brother Mohamed Osman and late father Ali al-Mirghani, were held above the thronging crowds.
The motorcade moved slowly through the capital up to the spacious home of Mirghani's father overlooking the Blue Nile where thousands more were waiting to greet their leader.
A number of senior DUP officials who were likewise in self-imposed exile in Egypt also returned with Mirghani.
Many of the cheering supporters had traveled to Khartoum the previous day by bus from villages and towns nationwide ahead of his return, DUP officials said.
Mirghani headed the state council -- the body representing the country's legal political parties -- before President Omar Al Bashir seized power in a bloodless coup in 1989.
He was already in Egypt when the coup occurred and stayed on in self-imposed exile.
Bashir on Tuesday described Mirghani as "a symbol of the state" and acknowledged his efforts at unifying Sudan, which has been torn by an 18-year civil war in the south and tension with opposition factions in the north.
Prominent Sudanese and Egyptians threw farewell parties in Cairo Wednesday night for Mirghani, Al Hurriyah independent daily said.
"I am returning to Sudan under the present margin of democracy for maintaining and developing it and to work for halting the bloodshed, enhancing national unity and speeding up the comprehensive political settlement," Mirghani said at one of receptions, the paper reported.
A senior DUP official, Ali Ahmed al-Sayyed, told independent Al-Rai Al-Akher daily that Mirghani was returning as part of "the party's denunciation of violence and its strenuous efforts at achieving national reconciliation and peace as a step for reaching democracy."
He said the return may help in accelerating the pace of national reconciliation provided that the government "is committed to its pledge of a political openness" towards political parties.
Taj Al Sir Mohamed Saleh, another senior DUP official, denied that Mirghani's return was a prelude to that of his elder brother, who said previously he would come home once a political settlement is reached.
In a related development, Nigeria's government has informed Sudan's parties that peace talks scheduled for later this month in its capital Abuja have been indefinitely postponed, the official Sudan News Agency said Thursday, cited by the AP.
SUNA gave no reason for the postponement of the Nigeria-sponsored talks that were to try to bridge differences between the Sudanese parties.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Omar Nur Al Dayem, secretary general of the opposition Umma party, welcomed the delay of the Nov. 15-17 talks. He said preparations were not completed and that participating parties were yet to receive the meeting's agenda.
Also Thursday, Ghazi Salah El-Din, an adviser to Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, handed Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja a letter from el-Bashir about peace in Sudan, SUNA reported. It gave no details.
In Nairobi, a spokesman for the Sudan's People Liberation Army, the main rebel group fighting the Khartoum government in the south, said the SPLA had not been officially told that the talks have been postponed --
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