Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

A talk with Sudan’s Democratic Unionist Party head Muhammad Othman al-Mirghani | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Khartoum, Asharq Al-Awsat-Despite the slamming political waves and the successive developments in Sudan, Muhammad Othman al-Mirghani, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, with his [political] weight and his historic personality and leadership of the national movement, the Democratic Unionist National Party, continues to represent the most important figure in Sudanese politics. In his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, he confirmed that the decision to participate in the government was dictated by national responsibility to confront the dangers and threats against Sudan.

The following is the full text of the interview:

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Have you reached a decision on the participation of the (original) Democratic Unionist Party in the new government?

[Al-Mirghani] The (original) Democratic Unionist Party’s Union Commission agreed, in accordance with a national work program, which the two sides (the Unionist and Nationalist) must adhere to.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why the change in position from “No to Participation” to “Yes to Participation”?

[Al-Mirghani] The decision to participate in the constitutional, executive, and loyalty state institutions was dictated by national responsibilities to confront the threats and dangers that are staring at the nation. These require that we work on implementing the joint (Unionist and Nationalist) program that was being prepared by the committees that belong to the two parties, over four months. We have subjected the programs to free discussion and have taken into consideration all the opinions, observations, and reservations, and then it was agreed upon.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why was the decision on accepting to participate with the National Congress in the new government, delayed?

[Al-Mirghani] The Unionist Party is a well-established party and has principles and traditions. Despite the fact that the party constitution gives power to its leader to make decisions on major issues, I believed that it should put forward the matter to the party’s leadership commission, and thus debating the issue and practicing democracy.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did the Democratic Unionist Party propose the temporary constitution after the transitional constitution expired in July 2011?

[Al-Mirghani] Yes, the issue of the temporary constitution was discussed in the joint meetings between the two parties, and we made some important amendments which the National Congress agreed to. This draft constitution will be presented to the political forces and the civil society organizations in order to discuss so that everyone can participate in [drafting] the constitution.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you not afraid of the surprises that come with dealing with the National Congress?

[Al-Mirghani] The Democratic Unionist Party is a well-established party and its most important issue is the nation and the citizen. The party has lots of experience and expertise in terms of unilateral, bilateral, and expanded governance. In the 1988 Coalition Government we decided to withdraw in order to prove our credibility with the Popular Movement with which we signed the peace agreement in Addis Ababa because the prime minister at the time expressed some reservations that obstructed this agreement. We will be fully capable of dealing with every situation, including the withdrawal from the government in the event that the programs agreed upon are not adhered to.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are the priorities of the political positions vis-à-vis the developments and consequences of what is taking place in Sudan?

[Al-Mirghani] The priorities have not and will not change. They are constant and deep-rooted vis-à-vis the nation’s issues, in terms of confronting dangers, threats, and developments and effective confrontation to stop the tension and lawlessness in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and the Blue Nile. We have lost a third of Sudan and a quarter of its people through secession. Our national and historic responsibility requires us to maintain the unity of Sudan in terms of land, soil, and people and the need to seek an agreement on unity with the south in any shape or form or agreement that would maintain the links and interests between north and south. Serious and honest determination and will are required in order to achieve what we want. This is what we will do without any argument. We protected the unity of the north and south in 1956 and we signed agreements and accords in 1988 to maintain the unity of Sudan for which we gave up the unity with Egypt or the Nile Valley even though we gained the approval of the majority of the parliament under this slogan. Our commitment continues to be there and we will not give up on our mission.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the current developments in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile?

[Al-Mirghani] We have to admit that the CPA gave the south its greatest aspiration in terms of wealth, authority, and secession (the southern state) in addition to peace. Meanwhile the north reaped the worst scenarios and effects of the agreement and the effects of adhering to implementing them. The agreement transferred the wars from the south to the north and proof of this is what is happening in these areas. The Democratic Unionist Party is now calling for and trying to bring comprehensive security and stability to these three areas where the people are suffering the worst tension and lawlessness. There is a need for political dialogue in which all Sudanese parties take part in the shape of a comprehensive and nationalistic conference in order to discuss the main national issues, and at the forefront of which is to maintain stability, national unity, and constant peace in all regions. There is a need for a nationalistic and patriotic accord that prevents the creation and resumption of the war series that took place in the south, and their transfer to Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile. We have paid a high price in terms of loss of lives, resources and capabilities and there is a need to collect the weapons from individuals and groups and to deal with the issue of members of the Popular Movement Forces who belong to the Blue Nile and Kordofan states by either including them in the armed forces or releasing them. This is a vital issue; efforts, participation, and support for the Doha Document are required in order to achieve stab ility and development for the people of Darfur.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you view the pending and thorny issues that are related to the borders between the north and south and the possibility of confrontation and war?

[Al-Mirghani] We are following the Abyei file closely and carefully. We want to deal with the file domestically, bilaterally within Sudan as much as possible. We continued to send messages to leaders and sheikhs in the region in order to urge them to communicate and to deal with the matter in a way that would protect the joint interests and to bring stability for the people in the region. We do not want or encourage any kind of foreign intervention in order not to create unnecessary gaps and tension. We have put forward our vision to Juba as we did to Khartoum because it is important that there is agreement, communication, and understanding between north and south so there is a bilateral resolution for Abyei, which is an issue that can be resolved because everyone wants to coexists and everyone wants stability in Abyei which geographically lies in the north. As for the border problems between north and south, early on we stressed during the negotiations and during the border demarcation in the transitional period that there is a need to complete the demarcation process between north and south before a referendum on self-determination is held in order to prevent any future tension and confrontation and because we know that the border represents the most dangerous issue on bilateral relations. We have experience with border issues. What I very strongly look forward to is the need to resolve the border issue and to draw the lines through understanding as required by good neighbourly relations, interests, and communication.

At the same time, we are supporting the peace and stability direction in the Darfur Region and we believe what happened in Doha and any other agreements represent an important step toward a comprehensive solution and these steps give security and reassurance to the people of Darfur. We urge all the Darfur sides and armed factions to join the peace process in order to provide the needs, services, and necessities of life for people of Darfur.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are there encouraging indications for the Unifying National Meeting in order to achieve comprehensive national accord?

[Al-Mirghani] In our proposal [to hold] a unifying national meeting and to achieve comprehensive national accord we are depending on our firm stand toward the nation’s issues. In every stage we discussed the need to achieve comprehensive national accord because it represents a life jacket for the nation. Without unifying the national rank and the domestic front and without agreement on the highest national principles and interests then the dangers and threats will continue to stare at the nation from every direction, including the foreign intervention. We have delivered messages to the National Congress and to all the political forces and civil society organizations and national personalities; we have formed a mechanism and secretariat that is responsible for all the proposals made for the meeting’s agenda and in order to specify the date and location. We will continue and will not tire in order to achieve comprehensive peace in Sudan and to confront the dangers, threats, and foreign intervention.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the factions that left or split from the Democratic Unionist Party?

[Al-Mirghani] The Democratic Unionist Party is a wide, nationalistic current that is united and cohesive. Its supporters are mature and politically aware. They know exactly what is required at every stage and at every point of change or decisive position. The Unionist National Movement over the past 70 years has not known anything called factions and so on. The party only witnessed two splits: one led by Ismail al-Azhari and other led by his deputy Muhammad Nuraldin in 1974. The two wings then were amalgamated in the Unionist National Party in 1952. Then the National Unionist Party split from the People’s Democratic Party in 1956 and they also reunited in 1966 through the initiative of King Faisal Bin Abdulaziz smoothly and with a national spirit. Leader Ismail al-Azhari said in the presence of Ali al-Mirghani and King Faisal Bin Abdulaziz, and myself in Khartoum: “Our Party is now one: the Democratic Unionist Party; and the two wings have been buried.” From that time and despite the coups and changes in Sudan, the Democratic Unionist Party remained cohesive and shouldered its responsibilities and roles toward the nation’s issues. The party does not pay attention to anything that does not concern the nation and its unity. The Democratic Unionist Party has not resorted to its past tradition in terms of implementing the expression: “To Whom it May Concern…Peace,” because those who have been classed as defectors or who have split from the party are in fact nothing like the party and do not represent it (at any level). Let us stress the cohesiveness, unity, and solidarity of the masses who have the maturity, awareness, and courage to confront the highest issues and interests of the nation.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is the role in terms of confronting the economic issues and the livelihood?

[Al-Mirghani] We blame the government and its policies for the deteriorating economic and living conditions in Sudan because it already knew the effects of the referendum, the secession, and the creation of the southern state, because this alone led to Sudan losing its share of the oil revenue that represented a great amount [of money] in the general budget. The government did not make sufficient and effective economic plans and did not provide the living necessities to all citizens within the framework of the limited financial income. I have asked economic experts and businessmen to study the economic situation in order to find workable and effective solutions, most importantly increasing revenue and improving the citizens’ living conditions. For us, this is a very disturbing issue, because the majority of citizens are suffering in terms of obtaining the necessary commodities due to their limited income. There is a need for immediate solutions and options by the government and there is also a need for an economic conference in order to confront this economic deterioration and its negative effects on the majority of the people of Sudan. The number one issue for the government should be the citizens’ vital and livelihood issues and it must take into account all positions in a proper manner.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your position vis-à-vis the current developments in Libya?

[Al-Mirghani] We have historical relations with brotherly Libya. Our contact with them has not stopped. We have stressed our complete support for the brotherly people’s revolution and the people’s leadership in Libya. We have expressed our sincere hope that the aspirations for which the people have struggled are achieved and are [manifested] in an honourable and free life where people, as citizens, have their rights within a democratic system that guarantees justice and equality. I asked Cairo to cooperate with Libya and support it because its stability and the provision of its needs following the revolution enhance the stability of the region because Libya is a brotherly and important neighbour for Egypt and Sudan. Our political support will continue unrestricted.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you following what is going on in Egypt?

[Al-Mirghani] What is happening in Egypt concerns us directly because of the historical relations not only between the people and the two sides of the Nile Valley but with the Democratic Unionist Party in particular which, over a quarter of a century ago, carried the slogan calling for the unity of the Nile Valley. The party continues to adhere to this slogan and is working on reaching it. While I was in Egypt, I urged the political forces and the leaders of the revolutionary government to unite the domestic front in Egypt. I also encouraged political, economic, and social stability so Egypt can shoulder its vital and strategic role in the region. I urge all political forces, civil society organizations, and the youths in Al-Tahrir Square to unite their national rank and to end all forms of violence at all levels, achieve stability and security in Egypt, and protect its international and regional position. I also call on them to resort to wisdom and rationality in order to protect Egypt and maintain the gains and principles of the 25 January revolution in order to establish a democratic, multi-party system. This is what we hope for the sisterly country, Egypt, and for the people and their aspirations for a sound, pluralistic, and democratic system.