KHARTOUM (SUDANOW)—The Secretary-General of the Sudanese National Dialogue Conference (NDC), Professor Hashim Ali Salim, has stated that the six committees of the Conference have covered 50% of the visions after discussion of the papers which have been presented. This makes it certain that the committees will be through with their tasks in the set three-month period that began on October 11.
The committees have discussed six main issues including the identity, the freedoms and rights, the national economy, unity and peace, foreign relations and government and implementation of the outcome of the dialogue.
He added that the final recommendations made by the NDC would rule the country and would not be put aside or opposed as they would be a document signed in consensus by all participants in the Conference and the agreed upon issues and conclusions would be included in the country's permanent constitution.
The Chairman of the NDC Committee for Governance and Implementation of conclusions of the Conference, Professor Barakat Mussa al-Hawati, said his Committee, which is made up of representatives of political parties and armed movements and national personalities, has managed to reach consensus on the governance issues. It underlined the importance of the role of the native administration and its stance with regards to any constitutional amendments, following suit of the South African experience, he added.
Professor Ali Mohamed Shummo, the Chairman of the Freedoms and Basic Rights Committee, said the deliberations of his Committee concentrated on the need for amendment of some laws which restrict freedoms. The participants, he went on, placed emphasis on specific issues such as the press law and the basic rights of housing and other similar rights. The Committee reviewed the freedoms and rights document of the Interim Constitution of 2005, said Shummo, adding that all participants commended the document and called for considering it a basis and a guide for the Committee to finish its mission in a manner that will be beneficial to the country.
Professor Ali Osman Salih, the Chairman of the Identity and Culture Committee, said his Committee has held over 16 meetings since the start of its mission. It has discussed three main issues, namely: (1) the Identity concept, (2) The determining factors of the identity and (3) The basic pillars of the identity, Salih said
He said the Committee reviewed three options- the Sudanese identity, the national identity and the country identity and the participants unanimously agreed on the Sudanese identity.
The External Relations Committee laid down, during its meetings, a method and a strategy for the dialogue in a positive manner in which the viewpoints were close to each other. Academics, diplomats and media-persons presented 46 papers while lectures and workshops were organized by professional diplomacy experts. A number of the Committee members called for boosting and consolidating the external ties with all nations.
The Peace and Unity Committee, which is chaired by Mohamed al-Amin Khalifa, also during the past period, discussed the ways for achieving peace and unity, the relationship between the two and their contribution to achievement of the country's stability. The participants agreed on the need for presentation of the issues in a frank and transparent manner. The Committee considered peace as a religious, national and ethical project, emphasizing its national nature.
The Committee also discussed the agreements with the armed movements, the security arrangements, the borders, the ruling system, the fair distribution of power and resources and the national affiliation that serve unity and peace.
It stressed the need for implementation of all provisions of the previous agreements which stipulated for building the villages which were destroyed by the war, payment of the diyyah (blood money) and legalization of weapons.
The developments of the first month of the conference included coming back home and joining the NDC by Dr. Yusuf al-Kodah, leader of the Moderate Islamic Party, who earlier left the country, as an opponent, and took residence in Switzerland.
The NDC was also joined by three national figures who were: Zachariah Atem, representing the contested Abyei region on the Sudanese-South Sudanese border, and Eissa al-Hassan and Ahmed Osman Tiyah, representatives of Halayb and Shalatin which are contested between the Sudan and Egypt.
However, conflicting viewpoints were voiced during the NDC discussions. Some activists and observers saw them as a test for willingness of the government to accept the outcome of the conference of any sort.
Those controversial positions included a memorandum by the Popular Congress Party (PCP) of Dr. Hassan al-Turabi taking part in the NDC which calls for a two-year transitional government under President Omar al-Beshir who will either be only a symbol for sovereignty without any executive powers which will be exercised by a 20-member council of ministers, or step down to be succeeded by an independent person or by a sovereignty council.
The PCP memorandum also calls for disbanding the present parliament (National Assembly) and replacing it with a 100-strong national legislative assembly. This memorandum virtually contains all demands of the civil opposition as well as both the moderate and extremist armed oppositions. This was confirmed by the opposition itself as one of its leaders accused the PCP of seizing the opposition paper.
The Deputy Chairman of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid immediately declared rejection of the proposed transitional government, describing as "deluded" those who call for establishment of such a government. Omer al-Bakri Abu Haraz, a prominent societal figure, said such hasty rejection would strengthen the position by Sadek al-Mahdi and the Sudan Call group, particularly the Sudanese Revolutionary Front of boycotting the national dialogue.
Moreover, preventing leaders of opposition parties from travelling to Paris, France, for participation in an opposition meeting only one month from a pledge by President Omar al-Beshir permitting freedoms for political organizations also supports the position of the opposition parties which announced that they would participate in the dialogue only after their previous conditions for guaranteeing public freedoms and abrogation of all freedom-binding laws are fulfilled.
In addition, calls resurfaced for reintroduction of the federal rule system in which the country is divided into a limited number of regions. Vice President Hassabo Mohamed Abdul Rahman immediately announced in the National Assembly (parliament) that a return to the federal system would be a setback while NDC committees are still discussing the manner in which the Sudan would be ruled, thus blocking the road of dialogue in this direction. This federal system is one of the demands by the three main rebel movements which have declined to sign the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), said Abu haraz.
The last step which may cause a relief in the position of the parties which are boycotting the dialogue will be a meeting by the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) with the government and the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The meeting, scheduled for today (Thursday 19 Novermber), is set to discuss a ceasefire and humanitarian aid delivery and agreement on those issues may persuade major forces to join up with the dialogue.
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