Sudan: Conference in Eastern Sudan Demands Right to Self-Determination

30 September 2020

Sinkat — The 'Peace, Development and Justice Conference' in Sinkat in Red Sea state demanded the right to self-determination for the region yesterday. Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan 'Hemeti', Vice President of the Sovereign Council, was present at the final day of the conference.

The conference, organised by the High Council of Beja Nazirs and Independent Chieftains, is not the first attempt to challenge the eastern Sudan track peace accord, that was signed in Juba in February this year by the Sudanese government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebel alliance as part of the comprehensive peace agreement for the whole of Sudan.

Eastern Sudanese leaders already denounced that track accord on eastern Sudan before it was signed in February. Abdallah Mousa, Chairman of the Beja Congress-Freedom and Change faction, categorically rejected the eastern Sudan agreement a few days after it was signed, calling it "worthless".

Eastern Sudanese leaders called for a separate conference to deal with the specific issues of the east, after the Sudan peace agreement was signed in Juba.

A memorandum with the recommendations of this week's conference, that started on Sunday, was presented to Hemeti by several nazirs* as representatives of the participants.

These recommendations include a unification of the three eastern Sudan states (Red Sea state, Kassala, and El Gedaref) into one region, "according to historical geographical boundaries".

The region has the "fundamental human right to self-determination", the memorandum states. Any interference from "outside" is rejected. Eastern Sudan should be ruled by its own people, and power must be shared at all levels. A joint high coordination body with representatives from all eastern Sudanese communities should be formed to prepare all this.

The eastern Sudanese leaders further demanded the immediate cessation of all residential and agricultural schemes and land approvals. They also seek a stop to all mining operations "until the foundations are laid that serve the interests of the people in the region".

Lt Gen Hemeti, who is not only Vice President of Sudan's Sovereign Council but also Commander in Chief of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), acknowledged "the dire humanitarian situation in eastern Sudan", and promised "to solve the problem of the three eastern states in the coming days".

He lauded "the eastern Sudanese model of peaceful coexistence, suitable for teaching in universities", and said that the recent clashes between ethnic communities is "strange" to him.

Head of the Hadendawa clan and Chairman of the Beja Council Sayed Tirik said during his closing speech at the conference that eastern Sudan has been marginalised and suffered from injustices since Sudan became independent in 1956.

He denied the existence of tribal problems in eastern Sudan. "We do not fight other tribes. We will not bother the authorities with such problems." He warned against "new parties who want to steal the revolution".

22 tribal chiefs and Native Administration leaders also handed Hemeti a memorandum in which state they reject "any direct involvement of the Native Administration in politics, which would be political action under a tribal cover and which would create discord and confusion in the eastern Sudanese society". They base themselves on the principle: "A tribe is for all, a political party is for each person". They support the eastern Sudan track peace accord agreed upon during the Juba peace negotiations.

* A nazir is a state-appointed administrative chief of a tribe, according to the Native Administration system in Sudan.

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