KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan said on Monday it could freeze court verdicts against armed rebels if they agree to join national reconciliation talks, a renewed attempt by the government to end fighting that has long mired the country.
First Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh told reporters the freeze on verdicts, which could include death sentences, would apply for the duration of the talks.
Khartoum has been fighting an insurgency in the southern provinces of Blue Nile and South Kordofan since 2011, mounted mostly by former civil war fighters who were left in Sudan after South Sudan seceded that year.
President Omar al-Bashir called for a national dialogue early last year but little progress has been made. He also renewed a general amnesty for armed groups who “truly desire to return and participate in dialogue”.
“We can freeze rulings during the talks period as well as take any other measures based on consensus,” he said.
“But we cannot provide amnesty unless we feel the talks will succeed because you don’t want to grant them amnesty only for them to pick up guns against you again.”
Two leaders and 15 members of the main rebel alliance against Bashir were sentenced to death in absentia in March 2014.
The most prominent figures are Malik Agar, who was governor of Blue Nile state before taking up arms, and Yasir Arman, who stood against Bashir in the 2010 election.
Agar is now head and Arman secretary general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which is active in Blue Nile and the oil-producing South Kordofan province.
“We do not trust this government that has killed prisoners of war and peaceful protesters,” Jibril Adam, spokesman for the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel group, told Reuters.
“We will only participate in dialogue if there are regional and international guarantees and after prisoners of war are released,” he said.
Saleh said the unrest in Blue Nile and South Kordofan hurt the economy and served as an excuse for foreign interference. He said the talks could begin “in the coming days”.
Bashir extended his 25-year rule in April when he was reelected with over 94 percent of votes after most opposition groups boycotted the poll.
Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Tom Heneghan