Sudan peace talks: Hamdok, El Hilu agree on roadmap
September 5 - 2020 ADDIS ABABA / KHARTOUM

PM Abdallah Hamdok returns from Addis Ababa where he met with SPLM-N leader Abdelaziz El Hilu (SUNA)
After signing an accord on the basic principles for the peace negotiations between Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North faction headed by Abdelaziz El Hilu (SPLM-N El Hilu) on Thursday, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and El Hilu also agreed on the negotiation methodology. UN Secretary General António Guterres welcomed the accord.
On Friday, dozens of supporters of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North faction under the leadership of Abdelaziz El Hilu gathered at Khartoum International Airport to receive Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, returning from Ethiopia where he signed a Declaration of Principles with the Nuba rebel leader.
They carried banners reading “Peace First”, “Hamdok and El Hilu are the Hope of Sudan”, “Peace of the Brave”, and “Secularism guarantees the unity of Sudan”.
Hamdok flew to Addis Ababa to meet with El Hilu after attending the signing in initials of a comprehensive peace agreement between Khartoum and the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance in the South Sudanese capital of Juba on Monday,.
The SPLM-N El Hilu, operating in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan and parts of Blue Nile state, entered the peace negotiations in Juba last year separately. Its long-standing position is to establish a viable secular Sudan that prevents imposing laws on a religious basis, and the right to self-determination for the southern region.
Last month, 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.
Hamdok and El Hilu announced on Thursday that they agreed on the continuation of the current cessation of hostilities for the duration of the negotiation process, as well as on six basic principles, including the acknowledgement of Sudan being a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural society that should be ruled democratically, based on “separation of religion and state”.
Roadmap
In a statement on Friday, Hamdok and El Hilu said that they further agreed to draw up a roadmap that defines the negotiation methodology, and a  matrix containing responsibilities and timelines.
Both sides will organise informal negotiation workshops to discuss “contentious issues such as secularism and the right to self-determination”, in order “to reach a common understanding that will facilitate the task of the formal negotiation teams”.
The Council of Ministers reacted on Friday by saying that the joint agreement that addresses “the outstanding issues in the Juba Declaration of Principles” signed in September last year, will become binding after it has been ratified by the relevant institutions, and will be adjusted in light of progress achieved in the informal negotiations.
The government “does not consider peace a sole political matter, but rather a humanitarian and human rights issue that opens the door wide for the return of displaced people and refugees to their areas of origin,” the council said in its statement.
The SPLM-N El Hilu commented on Friday that it will keep to its position on the importance of secularism as “a solid foundation for [Sudan as] a state based on pluralism, equality, justice, and freedom”.
SPLM-N leader Abdelaziz El Hilu greets his troops in the movement's stronghold in Kauda, South Kordofan (Sudaneseonline)
 
The movement said it has a “historical responsibility to push forward the path of the glorious Sudanese revolution and enable it to accomplish its tasks of resolute and serious uprooting all the roots of the old Sudan that support injustice, discrimination, hatred, marginalization, and wars”.
‘Positive step’
The spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General said in a statement on Friday that Guterres considers the agreement between Hamdok and El Hilu “a positive step, especially in the context of the initialling of the peace agreement between the government, the Sudan Revolutionary Front, and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA)-Minni Minnawi faction earlier this week”. 
The Secretary General also repeated his call on the mainstream Sudan Liberation Movement under the leadership of Abdelwahid El Nur to join the peace process “so that a comprehensive solution can be found”.
The Communist Party of Sudan, the Sudanese Congress Party, and the Sudanese Professionals Association have also welcomed the agreement between Hamdok and the hold-out rebel movement.
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