Saturday, February 20, 2010
"Ex-PM Mahdi blasts Sudan ruling party on south, Darfur"
(AFP) – 4 days ago
KHARTOUM — Former Sudanese premier Sadiq al-Mahdi kicked off his presidential campaign Monday with a blistering attack on the ruling National Congress Party, which he accused of devastating the country.
Mahdi, a leading contender against President Omar al-Beshir in April's elections, also accused the NCP of using the "ethnic weapon" in the war-torn Darfur region.
"The catastrophe that afflicted our country began with the takeover by a minority party that imposed an Arabic Islamic identity on a country of diverse religions and cultures, and treating whoever did not agree with it as a renegade to be fought by jihad," Mahdi told a news conference.
Former president Jafar al-Nimeiri's implemented Islamic law, which imposes harsh punishments for such offenses as extra-marital sex, in 1983, and declared Arabic the official language of Sudan.
The Muslim north fought a devastating two-decade war with the mostly Christian south that ended in 2005, and which the government often portrayed as a holy war.
Beshir deposed Mahdi in a military coup in 1989 and has relied on Islamist and Arab nationalist rhetoric in Khartoum's conflicts with non-Arab, Muslim tribes in Darfur and with the south.
Mahdi, who is also the spiritual leader of the "Ansar" Sufi brotherhood, said the Islam promoted by the NCP violated the "principles of political Islam, which are dignity, justice and freedom."
"The Islamist mutineers were also careful to attract (some) residents in Darfur with policies that tore apart the political and social fabric... and when an armed resistance movement was launched against these policies, they hastened to use the ethnic weapon," he said.
Beshir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur, where 300,000 people have died since rebels took up arms against the central government in 2003.
Khartoum favoured Arab tribes in the region and relied on Arab militias known as the Janjaweed in its effort to quell the rebellion.
Voting for the general election, Sudan's first since the 1986 poll that brought Mahdi to power, is set to start on April 11.