The unprecedented visit by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamadok to SPLM-N-Al-Hilu stronghold in Kauda, southern Korodofan and the expected reciprocated one by Abdel Aziz Al-Hilu to Khartoum provides a new opening to take the search for peace into a new territory that is to get people involved more in establishing peace, secure it and sustain it.
The two attempts looking for peace before were short lived because they were handled by elites on both sides of the isles, who were successful in cutting deals that did not have the needed popular backing based on addressing issues of nation building that have to resurface again on the political scene and ignite yet again a military rebellion.
The first attempt was what came to be known as Addis Accord that managed in 1972 to put an end to the 16-year rebellion and allowed the country a full decade of reasonable tranquility. Interesting enough that deal was symbolized by its main signatory's former President Ja'far Al-Nimeiry and rebel leader then Joseph Lagu. When that deal went into trouble for variety of reasons including the complaints by some southerners led by Lagu from the dominance of the Dinka tribe. The opportunity was seized by Al-Nimeiry, who for his own calculation wanted to weaken the South and pushed for dividing it into three regions. His logic was that it was him and Lagu who signed the Addis Accord and as such they are more suited and able to change it regardless of the agreement provisions.
Decades later and following yet another twenty years of fight the Ingaz regime led by former President Omar Al-Bashir reached the famous comprehensive peace deal with SPLM's John Garang that did not proved to be comprehensive and failed to achieve any of its original two main goals of sustaining peace and making democratic transformation. In fact its legacy was that it neither maintained peace, nor the country's unity and it ended up with the worst outcome of renewed war between the two states and within each of them.
This is a fresh experience that people of the two Sudan are still going through, yet it worth mentioning that it was the Mashakos framework based on the IGAD declaration of principles that called on Sudan government either to accept secularism and separation of state and religion or that South Sudan be given its right for self-determination. The Ingaz regime basing its legitimacy on Islamic call sacrificed its commitment to the country's territorial integrity and opted for that deal. In fact Ingaz is not the only to blame, other forces throughout the political spectrum committed themselves to the principle of self-determination one way or another.
In the end it was a deal struck by elites on both sides for their own interest. People were not consulted and the deal was never put to a popular vote.
SPLM-N-AL-Hilu was picking the same page from the old book of the mother movement SPLM led by Garang and without adapting to changing times and more important to the unfolding experience.
Under the heavy and bitter experience of Islamists, Sudan's woes were blamed on the issue of religion. That simplistic approach failed to take into account that the first mutiny started in 1955 even before Sudan got its independence. Also it failed to take into consideration the bloody experience of infight between the SPLM factions back in the 1990s between Garang on one hand and Riek Machar on the other camp, where the number of lives lost in that fight exceeded those lost in fighting Sudanese army.
But more important the civil war that has engulfed the new nation of South Sudan only two years after it gained its independence has to find an explanation aside from religion.
The central point is that it the gun that has forced the issue of separating state and religion as the main source of problems. Rebel movements used to have the high moral sound claiming to be the victims of ruthless military regimes. That is no longer the case.
On the contrary it is the popular uprising that has toppled the Ingaz regime, not the guns of the rebel movement. It is this popular dimension that needs to be brought into the political equation and break the monopoly of the elites in dominating.
It is important to have the voice of people heard high, not that of the guns.