In this interview, Asharq Al-Awsat speaks to the head of the Sudanese Democratic Unionist Party Muhammad Othman al Mirghani about the upcoming general elections and the unity of Sudan.
Q) Is the Unionist Party ready for the general elections?
A) Yes, the party is ready to enter the general elections and urge the citizens in general and the unionist masses in particular to register because this comes before voting. The party hopes that the elections will be fair, impartial and transparent and praise be to God for the high level of national awareness and political presence and excellent knowledge of what needs to be done at every stage of the electoral process from registering to choosing [who to] vote for in the ballot boxes. The first elections that took place in the country in 1953 are considered a good testimony to that.
Q) Why didn’t the party send a delegation to work on political symposiums, mobilization and political enlightenment in the provinces?
A) The party’s delegations and its leaderships has not stopped [exerting efforts] with regards to political activity in many parts in Sudan and [it has been holding] extensive meetings with leaders and regional committees based on the view that these general elections will be the first [general elections] in almost a quarter of a century and they represent the actual launch of the democratization process that the unionist [party] has emphasized.
Q) Have the unionist trends united under the unionist party?
A) The leadership and masses of the party are united, and it is completely consistent in its goal and direction. We have emphasized [the importance of] reunion among the unionists in order to take part in the decisive general elections with a united and powerful will to achieve the hopes of the Sudanese nation on one hand and to reassure the nation [away] from dangers and threats on the other hand. The Democratic Unionist Party in particular has a large historical responsibility in the democratization process.
Q) Can you tell us about your initiative for achieving comprehensive national reconciliation in Sudan?
A) The call for comprehensive national reconciliation is dictated by the importance of confronting the dangers and threats that surround the nation and we must achieve national reconciliation between all the political forces for the sake of guaranteeing the wellbeing of the country and its people. We sent this [message] to President al Bashir and I told him “the time has come for comprehensive national reconciliation, and by virtue of his position [as President] you are called upon to bring together the political forces and the people of influence and to negotiate with them.” I also proposed this to the First Vice President and President of the Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan Salva Kiir and other political forces. Our efforts are continuing on all levels towards achieving comprehensive national reconciliation based on the consideration that it is a safety ring from the dangers and threats and successive crises. The opinion of the two sides or two partners in rule or in agreement is no longer considered important or beneficial in confronting major and dangerous issues, so there must be dialogue, extensive participation and national reconciliation.
Q) Do you support this partnership and bilateralism during the Navaisha negotiations?
A) We said to them in Navaisha that we are with [any] efforts to end the war and stop the suffering in exchange for comprehensive peace, and we did not come to be part of negotiations but not partnership but rather to achieve peace without delay. If there are problems we know how to deal with them. The numerous developments from 2005 to 2009 have taken course and are still continuing and we affirm our vision that “bilateralism (the National Congress and the SPLM) will not be able to face isolation from the political forces and active participation.”
Q) Have you selected a mechanism to achieve comprehensive national reconciliation?
A) We have previously told our brothers in Egypt that Egypt has its role and its weight and history and its special relationship with Sudan, and it is qualified to bring together the Sudanese nationalist and political forces to agree on the national initiative and comprehensive reconciliation. In any case it is important that the political forces meet in Khartoum or Cairo because the time factor is putting pressure on everyone, and this makes it necessary to pick up the pace, and this is directed by the current circumstances and President al Bashir is required by virtue of his position [as president of Sudan] to call for this.
Q) Does the Democratic Unionist Party support the referendum and self-determination for the South?
A) The Democratic Unionist Party considers the unity of Sudan a red line, and it signed the peace initiative with the SPLM in Addis Ababa, which stipulated the unity of Sudan, north and south, and we committed to the Asmara declaration and the peace agreement on the basis of working to achieve this attractive unity which will be decided upon by the people of the south by voluntary choice. With our historical background, our practices and reality, we support democracy and the citizens right to election and selection, and when they said the right to vote in the referendum for self-determination is [only] for the people in the south we wondered: what about the thousands of southerners in the North? They must be involved in [voter] registration, the voting, and the referendum…and the agreement that we put forward was made, and we uphold the unity of Sudan.
Q) What if matters progressed in another direction, namely towards the separation of the south from the north?
A) We have lived in a united Sudan, and our responsibility is to preserve the unity of Sudan without breaching the [political] covenants, and we warn of the consequences of partition, as there will be no stability, not in Khartoum, and not in Juba. This in turn calls for tightening and accelerating comprehensive national reconciliation to deliberate urgent key issues to break the cycle of crises and failure. This is the real way out, and we have conveyed this position to the senior leadership in neighbouring countries, particularly Cairo [Egypt] and Asmara [Eritrea], and we hope there is support and aid for Sudanese unity from neighbouring countries, because if Sudan is subject to division, this will set a precedent and be a threat to all.