Juba — On Monday, Sudanese peace talks began in Juba, at the invitation of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir. During the inaugural session, the chairman of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, stressed Khartoum's commitment to achieving a comprehensive peace in the country.
Addressing the opening session at the Freedom Hall in Juba, capital of South Sudan, on Monday evening, El Burhan said that the changes in Sudan have opened a new horizon for peace. The negotiations are now based on partnership, as the leaders of the armed struggle are partners in the change that took place in the country.
He praised the initiative of President Kiir and expressed his confidence in the Juba Forum to achieve a peace agreement for Sudan. He said he hopes the Platform will reach a solution by addressing the root causes of the civil wars.
El Burhan further pointed to the importance of establishing a new mechanism concerned with peace and security in the region.
African support needed
In his opening speech, President Kiir, said his confidence in the new government of Sudan encouraged them to organise the current peace negotiations platform. He thanked in particular El Burhan, his deputy, Gen Mohamed Hamdan 'Hemeti', and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok.
Kiir called on East African leaders to cooperate for the restoration of peace in Sudan. "We must work together to bring peace in Sudan. The time has come in Africa to address our differences and come up with a possible solution for restoring peace and stability" he said.
The current chairman of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF, an alliance of Sudanese armed movements), El Hadi Idris, emphasised the SRF's commitment to reach a comprehensive peace agreement, stating that the change in Sudan which happened with support of the rebel movements has created a new reality open for peace.
He pointed to the need to activate the Juba Declaration and demanded a clear mandate from the African Union for the peace process.
In the Juba Declaration of Principles, signed by the Sudanese government and the rebel movements on September 11, it was agreed to begin negotiations mid-October for a period of thirty days, a comprehensive ceasefire by the two sides, the abolition of death sentences facing leaders of armed movements, and the release of prisoners of war.
Abdelaziz El Hilu, leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North faction in South Kordofan which is not a member of the SRF, asserted the readiness of his supporters to achieve a peace agreement that addresses the root causes of the armed conflicts.
President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli affirmed their countries' support to the Sudanese peace process during the inaugural session.
Museveni urged Sudan's government and opposition to put national identity above everything without discriminating against other people. "If you want to save your country, stop wasting time and move forward with what you are doing, like peace, without delay.
"Managing a society is like being a doctor; once you misdiagnose the patient, the patient will never get cured. So leaders are like doctors. Those mistakes and misdiagnoses must end," he said.
Ethiopia's PM Ahmed urged the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an eight-country trade bloc in Africa, to support the negotiations, for a lasting peace in Sudan.
Sudan Revolutionary Front
The SRF alliance consists of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North faction led by Malik Agar (SPLM-N Agar) in Blue Nile state, and the Darfuri Justice and Equality Movement, the Sudan Liberation Movement faction under the leadership of Minni Minawi (SLM-MM), and the SLM-Transitional Council faction headed by El Hadi Idris.
In March 2017, Abdelaziz El Hilu resigned from his position as SPLM-N deputy chairman, blaming the movement's peace talks delegation of neglecting the right to self-determination in the conflict regions. The Nuba Mountains Liberation Council publicly supported the resignation and replaced leader Agar with his deputy El Hilu, which paved the way for a split in the SPLM-N.
The mainstream Sudan Liberation Movement under the leadership of Abdelwahid El Nur withdrew from the SRF when the alliance opted for a peaceful solution instead of continuing the armed struggle. El Nur says he will only join peace negotiations after Khartoum has restored stability and security in Darfur.