“To strengthen the spirit of reconciliation, national harmony and peace created by the national dialogue”
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has ordered the release of all political prisoners held in the country, state news agency SUNA said on Tuesday.
The decision came in response to calls from political parties and groups that have participated in the country’s ongoing national dialogue to grant detainees the opportunity to engage in the political process, SUNA reported.
Bashir, who has ruled Sudan since 1989 when he came to power in an Islamist and military-backed coup, has said he will not stand in elections expected in 2020 and appointed a prime minister last year for the first time.
“The release of political prisoners comes to strengthen the spirit of reconciliation, national harmony and peace created by the national dialogue” and as part of “steps to prepare a permanent constitution for the country,” SUNA said.
Since 2015 Bashir has held ongoing meetings with opposition and rebel groups under the banner of a national dialogue, in part to end longstanding conflicts in warring regions such as Darfur.
Many groups have boycotted the initiative, however, demanding that Bashir first repeal what they describe as repressive security and press laws and free political detainees.
SUNA did not specify how many political prisoners the decision would affect or the names of any of those set to be released.
Last month Bashir ordered about 80 political detainees released, weeks after they were arrested amid countrywide protests over soaring food prices and ongoing austerity measures.
Opposition groups have said about 50 political detainees remain in prison, including prominent politician Mohamed Mokhtar al-Khatib, the leader of Sudan’s communist party.
Government Parties Back Bashir’s Re-election in 2020
The political parties of the National Consensus Government (NCG) have agreed to back the re-election of President Omer al-Bashir in 2020.
The announcement was made by Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman following a meeting of an NCG delegation with the deputy chairman of the National Congress Party (NCP) Faisal Hassan Ibrahim on Monday.
“The coalition government’s parties agreed that the implementation of the outputs of the national dialogue ’process) should be achieved in the presence of the main guarantor of the dialogue, which is the President of the Republic,” said Osman. Monday.
“So they agreed to re-nominate him for a new term in the next elections,” added the information minister was also the spokesperson of the dialogue process which concluded its work in October 2016.
In addition to the ruling National Congress Party, the National Consensus Government includes all the forces that took part in the political process.
Osman further said the political forces, participating in the government, call on President al-Bashir to release all political detainees in order to create a suitable atmosphere for the formation of the Supreme Constitutional Committee tasked with the drafting of the permanent constitution.
Al-Bashir several times said that he would step down by the end of his current term in 2020. Even in November 2017, he went to declare his support for the candidacy of the governor of Gezira state Mohamed Tahir Ayala.
But observers more and more are inclined to believe that al-Bashir who is indicted by the International Criminal Court would run for a new term despite what he says.
For his part, Ibrahim who is also a presidential aide welcomed the call of the allied forces to release political detainees, as the ruling party didn’t yet take an official position on al-Bashir probable candidature.
The security forces arrested opposition leaders after a series of protests against the austerity measures including the increase of bread price announced at the beginning of January 2018.