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‘It is no longer acceptable to live in fear’

Hassan Berkia
Sati Haj, leading member of the opposition alliance and the Political Secretary of the Nasserite Unionist Party, spoke to The Niles about the Sudanese opposition’s stance towards the regime and the change sweeping…
12.06.2013  |  Khartoum
ساطع الحاج، القيادي بتحالف المعارضة والأمين السياسي للحزب الوحدوي الناصري المعارض، 26 مايو.
ساطع الحاج، القيادي بتحالف المعارضة والأمين السياسي للحزب الوحدوي الناصري المعارض، 26 مايو.

The relationship between the Sudanese government and the opposition, the National Consensus Forces (NCF), is constantly changing. The government believes that the NCF coordinate with foreign powers and the armed movements in Darfur and South Kordofan.

The NCF, meanwhile, believes that the government seeks to weaken the parties, restrict freedoms, confiscate newspapers, and prevent peaceful demonstrations.

Q: Mr. Haj, where is NCF? Is the political party still in dialogue with the ruling National Congress Party (NCP)?

A: Our position regarding this dialogue is very clear, and by the way, there is no dispute between the Umma Party and NCF various factions. We have agreed to dismantle this regime to achieve the aspired citizenship state.

Q: Is NCF planning to enter into dialogue with NCP? What are the conditions for such a dialogue? Do you think NCP will accept NCF’s demand for a transitional government?

A: First, we must emphasise that there is no disagreement within the NCF groups about the need to replace the salvation regime and the NCP regime with a state of political pluralism, promoting freedoms, holding free and fair elections, and forming a democratic government that represents the Sudanese people.

All the NCF components have been fully convinced that the salvation regime has become an integral part of the crisis, rather than part of the solution. The cost of the NCP’s survival is higher than that of its departure. NCF supports dismantling the regime.

Q: Dismantling or ousting? And how?

A: There are varying views on how the regime ends, despite the consensus about the necessity of its departure.

Some of us believe that this must be carried out by popular force, through demonstrations and civil disobedience. Others are of the opinion that given the great numbers of militias in Khartoum and the proliferation of weapons, toppling the regime through violence or demonstrations and civil disobedience could result in a repeat of the Somalian experience.

Therefore, although they agree with us, they look for less violent ways of removing the regime with the lowest possible costs and losses.

Q: What do you mean by the lowest possible costs and losses?

A: They want the regime to disband itself, through a constitutional conference bringing together all groups, and also through forming a transitional government and bringing those who offended the Sudanese people to book, i.e. through dialogue.

On the other hand, NCF realises that the government now is without institutions, and in order to have a dialogue, the regime should be institutional. Sudan now is only run by five to seven people. Even NCP does not run Sudan through institutions, and there are no institutions to administer public affairs. Thus, dialogue is not possible under the present circumstances.

We are now convinced that dialogue does not help dismantle this regime, and that there is only one way out. We are not against any NCF party that works for and promotes its vision for dismantling the regime. But, after all the attempts made by our allies in NCF to dismantle the regime peacefully, the result was that the regime remained entrenched in a single square, and refused to disband in favour of political pluralism. It will not relinquish power for any reason.

The reason is very simple: dismantling the regime means that NCP leaders will not survive, and that they will ultimately be brought to book. They are now defending themselves, their lives and the money they have looted.

Q: Some believe that NCF contradicts itself since it supports the regime’s fall, but at the same it is pro-dialogue and afraid of the consequences of the regime’s fall. Is NCF looking for a victory without any cost?

A: Change has a price and it must be paid. We have sought to change the regime without fighting or facing the threat of Somalisation, although Somalisation reflects one component of NCF. In the end, the cost of the regime’s survival is higher than that of change. So, let change happen at any cost, and we cannot remain locked in fear of chaos and fighting while allowing the totalitarian regime to continue in power and oppress the people.

Let us face the sun whatever the cost, and for whatever sacrifices. It is no longer acceptable to continue to live in fear, and we will not allow this fear to stifle freedoms.

Q: Is this vision held by all the NCF components? In other words, do all the NCF parties support change at any price?

A: This outlook is held by large segments of NCF, and it is not necessary that it is held by all of them.

Q: Dr. Nafie Ali Nafie described the NCF as being subject to the Revolutionary Front and in wait for the regime to dismantle itself through dialogue. Is it true that you will keep waiting indefinitely?

When the Naivasha Comprehensive Peace Agreement was concluded, all political forces headed there, looking for a way to participate, while NCP expressed its outright rejection of political forces’ intervention, or even protection of the Naivasha logic.

NCP has vehemently stood against recognition of other political forces, and has been dealing with them on the basis of partial solutions. All it has to offer to the political forces associated with it is cars and ministerial portfolios, and it has even failed to comply with the concluded partial agreements. NCP is a stumbling block in the way of political forces. That is why they seek to uproot it.

Q: What action have these political forces done on the ground? We do not observe any popular action; there are only words not deeds.

A: Of course! Ordinary citizens only want a regime change because the present regime has overburdened them economically, politically and socially, while NCF has entrenched the concept of change in the head of all Sudanese people.

At least, NCF has maintained this concept and drafted the democratic alternative instrument and the constitutional declaration for post-regime era. It has always been a painful thorn in the side of NCP, rather than a weak opposition as the NCP media tries to depict it.