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Former Sudan PM al-Mahdi: Lift of US Sanctions will Change Nothing | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Former Sudanese Prime Minister and head of the opposition Umma Party al-Sadeq al-Mahdi. (Reuters)

Khartoum – Former Sudanese Prime Minister and head of the opposition Umma Party al-Sadeq al-Mahdi made light of the effects of the lift of US sanctions on Sudan, saying its outcomes will remain minimal unless his country’s name was removed from the US list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

Al-Mahdi, who is also the leader of al-Ansar religious group, said the internal national dialogue was unsuccessful, adding it will lead to failures that were already seen in the past.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, al-Mahdi called for refraining from resorting to the old national dialogue and overcoming the “roadmap” suggested by African mediation to instead reach the “fruit of the roadmap.”

On Darfur, he warned of possible tribal clashes there, adding that the government is “playing with fire” by depending on tribal militias for security.

Regarding his party’s dissidents, al-Mahdi mocked them and described them as a “zakat (charity) tax” from his party to the ruling one.

On the expected US lifting of Sudan sanctions, al-Mahdi believed this is being given too much optimism “because it ignores a bigger problem which is that Sudan is still listed as one of the countries supporting terrorism.”

Furthermore, he noted that there are other international sanctions that will not be affected by the lift of the US ones.| Moreover, releasing Sudan from its debts is far more important.

The head of the Umma Party stated that lift of sanctions has a limited effect because Sudan needs to produce something for export.

“Our position is the same. These sanctions must be reversed because they affect the Sudanese citizens, but they will not have a major effect,” al-Mahdi confirmed.

The US had previously determined five tracks in order to lift the sanctions imposed on Sudan which include: counter-terrorism cooperation; addressing the threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA); ending hostilities in the “Two Areas” (South Kordofan and Blue Nile) and Darfur; improving humanitarian access; and ending negative interference in South Sudan.

Al-Mahdi said that more work should be done by Sudanese government in that area. He explained that in the US, there those who place importance on security and intelligence and therefore believe that Sudan is committed to the five tracks, while others think there should be more political and press freedom.

When asked about Darfur, al-Mahdi admitted that the international community exerted a lot efforts in the area at a time when the UN does not have enough troops for all the problems and clashes in Sudan and South Sudan. He said that each year, the peacekeeping missions costs half a billion dollars.

The opposition leader explained that the missions reduced the number of its forces because of a lack of volunteers and several countries withdrew their troops.

The peacekeeping role ends when a peace agreement is reached and all weapons have been collected, according to al-Mahdi, who said that almost all tribes and militias in Darfur are armed.

He added that the government made a mistake by relying on tribal militias in its security measures.

Al-Mahdi therefore suggested a new solution, saying that once Sudanese parties agree on it, it can be supported by the international community and African Union.

He stated that all civil factions within the Nidaa of Sudan Coalition are in agreement, yet the armed groups suffer from organizational issues which led to chaos. He also added that in the near future, Nidaa of Sudan could include all other forces that want a new system in a unified front.

The former PM said that divisions could indeed impede the dialogue and increase foreign interference, yet he believes that once accepted, the new suggestions could overcome the ramifications.

“We want to convince all parties with the fruit of the dialogue,” he said.