Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

All Sudan political prisoners to be freed: Bashir

Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir says he will release all political detainees, a move welcomed by the opposition as tensions ease with South Sudan.

KHARTOUM // Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir said yesterday that he will release all political detainees, a move welcomed by the opposition as tensions ease with South Sudan.

"Today, we announce a decision to free all the political prisoners and renew our commitment to all political powers about dialogue," Mr Al Bashir said in a speech opening a new session of parliament.

"We confirm we will continue our communication with all political and social powers without excluding anyone, including those who are armed, for a national dialogue which will bring a solution to all the issues," the president said.

Farouk Abu Issa, who heads the opposition alliance of more than 20 parties, said the announcement was "a step toward genuine dialogue".

He said the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which has been fighting government forces for almost two years in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, had been demanding a prisoner release.

"Very good news," said Farouk Mohammed Ibrahim, of the Sudanese Organisation for Defence of Rights and Freedoms, a group of activists. He said there are "a large number" of detainees in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. These include 118 SPLM-N prisoners whose cases are being handled by his organisation in southern Blue Nile alone. "It's a step forward," Mr Ibrahim said.

But SPLM-N chairman Malik Agar declined comment on Mr Al Bashir's announcement, saying he was "not sure which political prisoners he is referring to".

Mr Al Bashir's statement elaborated on an offer made last week by Vice President Ali Osman Taha, who reached out to the SPLM-N and opposition political parties, whom he invited to join a constitutional dialogue. Sudan needs a new constitution to replace the 2005 document based on a peace agreement that ended a 23-year civil war and led to South Sudan's separation in July 2011.

Mr Al Bashir's regime had long rejected negotiations with the insurgents.

In a statement yesterday, Agar reiterated that the rebels want talks on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2046, "full stop".

The resolution, passed in May last year, called for an end to fighting between Sudan and South Sudan along their disputed frontier and demanded talks to settle outstanding issues including the war between Khartoum and the SPLM-N.

Negotiations should occur on the basis of a deal which the SPLM-N signed in June 2011 with Bashir's assistant Nafie Ali Nafie, the UN said.

That agreement, which was not implemented, recognised the SPLM-N as a legal political party.

It committed the SPLM-N and the Islamist government to a "political partnership" in the two states and a national vision that recognised the country's diversity.

Last week Mr Agar said the government had been misleading by mooting negotiations under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended Sudan's civil war.

The CPA led to South Sudan's independence after an overwhelming vote in a referendum.

South Kordofan and Blue Nile both have large non-Arab communities and were accorded special status under the CPA, which said they would have "popular consultations" as well.

"The popular consultation got buried with the end of the CPA," Mr Agar said.

South Sudan armed and trained SPLM-N when it was part of the south's rebel force but says it cut military ties before the South's independence.

Khartoum's accusation that the South continued to back SPLM-N in South Kordofan and Blue Nile was the major impediment to improved bilateral relations with the government in Juba.

In early March the two countries finally settled on detailed timetables to ease tensions, after months of intermittent border clashes, by resuming economically vital oil flows and implementing other key pacts including a demilitarised border zone designed to cut cross-border rebel support.

An estimated one million people have been affected by the fighting inside South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National