Sudan: SPLM-N El Hilu and Sudan Professionals Association Sign Declaration of Principles

Juba — On Sunday, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North faction led by Abdelaziz El Hilu (SPLM-N El Hilu) in South Kordofan, and the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) signed a Declaration of Principles in Juba, capital of South Sudan.

The declaration was signed by Ammar Deldoum for the rebel movement and El Fateh Hussein for the SPA. The SPA was the driving force behind the Sudanese uprising that led to the ousting of President Al Bashir in April last year. The declaration consists of 17 items, including a secular state in South Kordofan.

The parties agreed to divide Sudan into eight decentralised regions/provinces, review land and investment laws, restructure the regular forces (the army and militias), reform the judiciary, and restore civil services.

The agreement also stipulates that all laws between 1974 and August 2019, based on religion be repealed, until a Permanent Constitution has been developed.

Sticking point

Talks between Khartoum and the SPLM-N El Hilu have not been smooth, as the rebel faction adhered to its long-standing position regarding a secular state. Until now, the government have been slow in cancelling the Sharia (Islamic law), imposed by the regime of Jaafar Nimeiri in September 1983.

Mid-July, Sudan abolished legislation that made apostacy punishable by death and allowed the Public Order police to publicly flog people. Non-Muslims will be permitted to drink, import, and sell alcohol, following the passing of the 2020 bill regarding reform of the legal system.

SPA representative Salaheldin Jaafar said after the signing ceremony that negotiations took two days. They discussed peace issues, the relationship between religion and the state, identity in Sudan, and laws that discriminate groups of Sudanese people.

Rebel leader Abdelaziz El Hilu said that Sudan is on a slippery slope, stressing that joint action is the only way to complete the tasks of the revolution to save Sudan from a complete failure.

The two parties agreed to create joint work programmes to inform the Sudanese people about the contents of the Political Declaration.

Peace negotiations

As for the stalled peace negotiations between the two parties, El Hilu affirmed his commitment to solve the roots of the crisis in the country. He welcomed the transferral of the peace file from the Sovereign Council to the Cabinet.

The rebel leader accused Khartoum of imposing "Islamic ideology" in the country and of following "the same wrong policies that caused South Sudan to secede". He warned that the current policies will continue to divide the Sudanese people.

The SPLM-N faction based in Kauda in South Kordofan's Nuba Mountains under the leadership of Abdelaziz El Hilu (SPLM-N El Hilu) separately joined the peace negotiations in September last year. The rebel group decided on July 1 to extend its unilateral ceasefire until the end of this year. Hamdok welcomed the decision.

The talks resumed in mid-January, but no progress was reported. In a statement dated May 28, the SPLM-N El Hilu denied rumours that they withdrew from the peace negotiations. "These are baseless allegations," Deldoum, the movement's chief negotiator said. "We deposited our position paper on State and Religion to the South Sudanese mediation team on 26 February 2020, and received no response from the government up to this moment," the statement reads.

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