The Sudanese government and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLN-N) signed a Declaration of Principles (DoP)* in the South Sudan capital of Juba this morning, in which the two parties agree “to work together to achieve and consolidate the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Sudan”.
The DoP was signed by the Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereignty Council, Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, and SPLN-N leader Abdelaziz El Hilu. And witnessed by South Sudan President Salva Kiir, as well as the executive director of the UN World Food Programme, David Beasley.
The declaration recognises that “a military solution cannot lead to lasting peace and stability” in Sudan, and the parties agree to “a permanent ceasefire once the security arrangements are agreed upon”.
In the DoP, the two parties agree to “the establishment of a civil, democratic, federal state in Sudan, wherein, the freedom of religion, the freedom of belief and religious practices and worship shall be guaranteed to all Sudanese people by separating the identities of culture region, ethnicity, and religion from the State”.
The declaration reads: “No religion shall be imposed on anyone and the State shall not adopt any official religion. The State shall be impartial in terms of religious matters and matters of faith and conscience. [..] These principles shall be enshrined in the Constitution”.
The agreement also includes the sanctity of human, women’s, and children’s rights, and emphasises that the government of Sudan has taken the necessary measures to accede to international and African human right charters that have not yet been ratified by the country.
In addition, a gradual integration and unification of forces is planned to lead to the formation of a single [non-partisan] professional Sudanese army by the end of the transitional period. “Security and military institutions shall reflect Sudanese diversity, and their allegiance shall be to the country and not to any other political parties or groups.”
The signing follows a previous meeting between El Burhan and El Hilu in Juba at the beginning of this month, terms were finalised yesterday.
El Burhan and South Sudan President Kiir held a summit in Juba on Saturday at which they discussed bilateral relations, with concentration on the means to bolster the peace process in both countries.
The head of South Sudanese mediation, Tut Guluak, said in a press statement after the summit that the president of the Transitional Sovereignty Council held a talks, before the presidential summit, with SPLM-N leader El Hilu, and discussed the differences on the declaration of principles between the government of the transitional period and the movement, in preparation for the start of formal peace negotiations between the two sides.
Guluak said that “the roadmap for peace between the transitional government and the SPLM-N has become clear.” He said that immediately after the signing of the Declaration of Principles, the mediation committee will set a schedule for negotiations between the parties, adding that the two sides are now ready to sit at the negotiation table.
Earlier this month, a coalition of women’s organisations announced their support for the negotiating position of the SPLM-N El Hilu after a delegation of the women’s organisations organised a 16-day visit to the areas controlled by the SPLM-N El Hilu.
They confirmed that the SPLM-N’s stance enjoys widespread popular support in these areas and expressed their support for the SPLM-N’s stance on secularism and the necessity of religious freedom.
The women's organisations also expressed their support for the SPLM-N presence in the Nuba Mountains and for people of the Nuba Mountains’ right to self-determination, to realise justice and human dignity and to fight exclusion and discrimination.
El Hilu withdrew from the Juba peace talks in protest of the chairmanship of the government delegation by Deputy Chairman of the Sovereign Council Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’, 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.
The SPLM-N El Hilu has signed agreements with activist groups and is cooperating with them to reach their goals. He has also expressed his willingness to negotiate with the Sudanese government.
In November, El Hilu reaffirmed his 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”.