SUDAN: Government suspends contacts with NDANAIROBI, 1 March 2004 (IRIN) - The government of Sudan has suspended contact with an umbrella opposition group, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), because it has allowed a rebel group from war-torn Darfur to join its ranks.
The government spokesman, Sa'id Khatib, told IRIN on Monday that the government had suspended all contacts with the NDA "about four days ago", because the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) was now one of its members. "We have suspended all contacts until the NDA clarifies why it has brought a fighting group on board," he said. "Fighting and dialogue do not go together."
The SLA's application to join the NDA was accepted at a Leadership Council meeting in Asmara, Eritrea, which opened on 13 February.
In December, the government and the NDA signed an agreement in Jiddah supporting the peace process between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), and called for a new democratic Sudan benefiting all political parties. "It is a breach of the pact signed between the government and the NDA," Khatib added.
The SLA's entry into the NDA was not unanimously supported, precisely because it is engaged in an ongoing war with the government of Sudan. The NDA chairman, Muhammad Uthman al-Mirghani, reportedly opposed the application on the grounds that the NDA is committed to the ongoing peace process, while the SLA is engaged in an armed struggle, the Justice Africa think-tank reported.
There is no formal ceasefire between the government and the NDA, which comprises a number of political parties, trade unions, armed factions and other groups, including the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the SPLM/A, the General Council of the Trade Union Federations, the Beja Congress, the Free Lions Association, the SLA, the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party, and the Sudanese Communist Party.
The SLA's membership of the NDA would strengthen the Darfur agenda and could open the possibility of Darfurians using the NDA as a channel for negotiating a fair representation in central government, Justice Africa reported. "The SLA would be well advised to utilise the NDA as one channel for negotiation, while keeping open the option of a second channel directly with the government of Sudan under international mediation. This is precisely what the SPLA did: retaining its membership of the NDA while also seeking a solution through IGAD," it said.
At the February Leadership Council meeting, the NDA officially requested representation in the power-sharing discussions taking place in Kenya between the government and the SPLM/A, which the latter will forward.
It also reportedly agreed to the broad principles of the Jiddah Agreement, covering power-sharing among the largely northern parties, but substantially revised the content.
The Jiddah agreement, signed by the NDA's Al-Mirghani (who is also the head of the DUP) and Sudanese First Vice-President Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha, was not widely accepted in December and "nearly broke the NDA", according to Justice Africa.
Darfur's second rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement, has not applied to join the NDA.