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Source: Sudan Tribune

The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir chaired the national dialogue committee known as 7+7 that is comprised of opposition parties and pro-government ones to review progress of the process launched earlier this year.

Observers say the momentum for the national dialogue has weakened substantially as a result of the government’s recent crackdown on opposition figures, activists and newspapers. They also cite the insistence of government on holding the April 2015 elections on time contrary to opposition demands.

The National Umma Party (NUP) of al-Sadiq al-Mahdi and Reform Now Party (RNP) led by Bashir’s ex-adviser Ghazi Salah al-Din al-Attabani has both suspended participation in the national dialogue citing government’s backpedalling on removing restrictions on public liberties.

The two parties issued a joint statement on Thursday saying they will not attend the 7+7 summit with Bashir and asserted that the latter sees dialogue as a power sharing allocation process while they view it as a major political procedure that would lead to rebuilding of the national state on national consensus.

Both al-Mahdi and al-Attabani along with head of Just Peace Forum (JPF) al-Tayeb Mustafa, who is Bashir’s maternal uncle, were absent from today’s meeting with the president. A paper owned by Mustafa known as al-Saiha was suspended twice by security apparatus over corruption stories it published and remains under a ban.

The head of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) Hassan al-Turabi, who was until recently Bashir’s top adversary, was present.

The meeting which ended in the early hours of Friday agreed to form a 3+3 committee from government and opposition parties to prepare a roadmap in seven days to present to all participants.

The deputy chairman of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) Ibrahim Ghandour said that the door is still open to rebel groups and other forces that boycotted the dialogue.

The secretary general of the Nasserite Socialist Party (NSP) Mustafa Mahmoud said that those who took part in the summit with Bashir agreed that dialogue is facing serious hurdles that requires immediate work to remove them .

Mahmoud added that opposition parties stressed the need to adopt confident building measures and unleash political and media freedoms and release all political detainees in line with Bashir’s previous pledges.

Bashir on his end affirmed that he will not back away from his promises on liberties calling it a moral and political commitment.

Last January, Bashir called on political parties and armed groups to engage in a national dialogue to discuss four issues, including ending the civil war, allowing political freedoms, fighting against poverty and revitalizing national identity.

He also held a political roundtable in Khartoum last April with the participation of 83 political parties.

The opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) boycotted the political roundtable, saying the government did not respond to its conditions.

The NCF wants the NCP-dominated government to declare a comprehensive one-month ceasefire in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. In addition it has called for the issuing of a general amnesty, allowing public freedoms and the release of all political detainees.

Bashir at the time instructed authorities in the states and localities across Sudan to enable political parties to carry out their activities inside and outside their headquarters without restrictions except those dictated by the law.

The Sudanese president also pledged to enhance press freedom so that it can play its role in the success of the national dialogue unconditionally as long they abide by the norms of the profession.

Political detainees who have not been found to be involved in criminal acts will be released, Bashir said.

But since then, Sudanese authorities arrested the al-Mahdi and the head of the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP) Ibrahim al-Sheikh. It also intensified its censorship of newspapers by either suspension or shutting down the entire media houses.

It also blocked planned events by the RNP and teh Sudanese Congress Party.

The European Union (EU) mission in Sudan yesterday decried the “ongoing detention and condition of opposition party members, youth activists, human rights defenders and journalists in Sudan”.

“We strongly urge the Government of Sudan to guarantee the peaceful exercise of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly,” the statement said.

The EU called on Khartoum “to either initiate legal procedures without delay or release the detained immediately”.

The statement also noted continued obstacles to the activities of civil society and non-profit organizations such as Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre.

“We regret the increasingly shrinking space for rights-based organizations, in particular those promoting women’s rights and youth empowerment. We expect the authorities to ensure that civil society organizations can operate freely, contribute to the development of Sudan and participate actively in the national dialogue announced by President Bashir.”

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