Opposition Militiamen Prepare to Return to Sudan

Published June 22nd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Militiamen of the opposition Umma party are preparing to return to Sudan from their bases in neighboring Ethiopia after Addis Ababa asked them to leave, a party spokesman said Thursday. 

Ahmed al-Hassan told AFP the fighters felt safe to return to Sudan, not because of Wednesday's presidential amnesty to all Khartoum's opponents but because of a peace deal signed between the Umma party and the Sudanese government last November. 

Hassan could not confirm a report by the independent Khartoum daily al-Ayam that around 200 militiamen had already returned to Sudan. 

"Preparations are underway for the return of some fighters to Sudan as a result of Ethiopia's decision" to ask them to leave recently, he said. 

He added that the fighters are in the Shahidi al-Bahr camp in Ethiopia's western border region," he said. 

"The return of the soldiers has no relation whatsoever with the amnesty decree. It is a coincidence," he said. 

"We already have a ceasefire with the government and the Djibouti peace agreement prevents the government from taking any actions against our fighters," he said. 

Khartoum signed a peace deal with the secular Umma party in Djibouti in November and in March the party's military wing announced they had ended hostilities with the government. 

The Sudanese government on Wednesday announced a blanket amnesty for political and military opponents inside and outside the country, which was welcomed by the Umma party as a positive step towards national reconciliation. 

But it called for further steps, including an end to press censorship and emergency laws. 

The government in Khartoum has been waging a 17-year civil war in the south, led by the Sudan People's Liberation Army rebels. In 1995, the Umma and other northern opposition groups joined the southern rebels in the war - CAIRO (AFP) 


© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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