Sudan: SPLM-N El Hilu 'Eager for Settlement to End Civil Wars in Sudan'

Khartoum — The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North under the leadership of Abdelaziz El Hilu (SPLM-N El Hilu*) reaffirmed its eagerness "to reach a peaceful, just, and comprehensive political settlement of the Sudanese problem that would put an end to the civil wars in Sudan". The statement was released to mark the anniversary of the Sudanese peace initiative (the Garang-El Mirghani agreement, November 16, 1988**).

In the statement, SPLM-N Secretary General Ammar Daldoum stressed that "the path to peace begins by addressing the roots of the Sudanese crisis, foremost of which is the issue of separating religion and state to ensure that religion is not exploited in politics and the repetition of previous experiences that have damaged the unity of the Sudanese peoples and led to the secession of South Sudan."

Secularism and the separation of religion and state has long been a core stated principle of the SPLM-N. Daldoum asserts that "any distinction between the Sudanese on the basis of creed and ethnicity will lead to the fragmentation of what remains of Sudan".

He said that the Garang-El Mirghani agreement provided for the freezing of border articles and all relevant texts included in the laws of September 1983.

He appealed to all Sudanese political forces "to unite in the sincere national effort for peace, stability and unity of the country".

* The SPLM-N El Hilu, operating in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan and parts of Blue Nile state, entered last year's peace negotiations in Juba separately. Its long-standing position is to establish a viable secular Sudan that prevents imposing laws on a religious basis and to achieve the right to self-determination for the southern region.

Talks between Khartoum and the SPLM-N El Hilu have not been smooth, as the rebel faction adhered to its secular position. Until now, the government has been slow in cancelling the Sharia (Islamic law) imposed by the regime of Jaafar Nimeiri in September 1983, saying the matter should instead be discussed at the constitutional conference.

In August, the rebel group withdrew from the talks in Juba in protest of the chairmanship of the government delegation by Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan 'Hemeti', Deputy Chairman of the Sovereign Council, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia. The rebels accuse the RSF forces of committing "heinous crimes" against civilians in various parts of Sudan.

** In November 1988, the democratically-elected government of Sudan under Prime Minister El Sadig El Mahdi and President Ahmed El Mirghani reached a peace agreement with the then Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), the headed by John Garang. The El Mahdi-El Mirghani government was subsequently overthrown by a military coup that swept the now-deposed 30-year Al Bashir dictatorship to power.

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