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Mbeki sees big step to end Sudan wars

11 September 2014, 20:57

Khartoum - Efforts to end Sudan's wars and other crises have made a major advance, the African Union's chief mediator Thabo Mbeki said after talks in Khartoum on Wednesday, official media reported.

After meeting President Omar al-Bashir, Mbeki said an agreement signed last week between the AU and the Sudanese Revolutionary Front is "a big step in the national dialogue file and paves the way for achieving great success", according to the state Suna news agency.

SRF is an alliance of anti-regime rebels from Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, they committed to peaceful resolution of Sudan's conflicts and to a broad-based national political dialogue.

The opposition Umma Party signed an identical commitment with the AU, as did representatives of two other parties which have already agreed to join a dialogue proposed by the government of the poverty-stricken nation.

Bashir, who seized power in an Islamist-backed coup 25 years ago, appealed in January for a wide-ranging political dialogue that would include ethnic insurgents.

But the subsequent arrest of political figures - including Umma leader Sadiq al-Mahdi - and continued press censorship raised questions about the regime's commitment to change.

Mahdi was detained by state security agents in May and spent one month in custody.

On Tuesday the National Intelligence and Security Service released his daughter Mariam al-Mahdi, Umma's deputy leader, who also spent a month in custody but faced no charge.

Mbeki and Bashir "reviewed a number of requirements of the success of the dialogue, including the political freedoms, the freedom of expression, and the release of the political detainees," Suna said, adding that Mbeki said he felt Bashir was serious about making the dialogue a success.

Elements in the ruling National Congress Party are "still active in trying to undermine the national dialogue", columnist Abdalla Rizig Abu Simazeh wrote in Wednesday's The Citizen newspaper.

He said the documents signed in Addis Ababa are "a new starting point" after the ruling party's dialogue initiative reached an impasse.



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