A talk with Sudan's Democratic Unionist Party head Muhammad Othman
By Mohamad Al-Hassan
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
[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
[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
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Received on Fri Dec 02 2011 - 19:06:20 EST