JUBA (Reuters) – The Sudanese government and a large rebel group from its southern Nuba Mountains on Sunday signed a document that paves the way for a final peace agreement by guaranteeing freedom of worship for all while separating religion and religion. ‘State.
The signing is seen as a crucial step in the efforts of the power-sharing government led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to strike deals with rebel groups across the country and end decades of conflict that have displaced millions and hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Last year, Sudan signed a peace accord with many groups, including from the western region of Darfur.
But a key faction of the North Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-N) led by Abdelaziz al-Hilu, did not adhere to last year’s agreement because it maintained its demand that Sudan renounce Sharia law and become a secular and democratic state. .
Sharia law was first imposed in Sudan in 1983 and maintained by now-ousted President Omar al-Bashir for the duration of his 30-year Islamist rule.
The so-called “Declaration of Principles” signed Sunday in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, between Sudan and the rebel faction means that talks on a final agreement can now begin.
The statement said the two sides agreed to “the establishment of a civil and democratic federal state in the Sudan, in which freedom of religion, freedom of belief and of religious and worship practices will be guaranteed to all the Sudanese people by separating identities from culture. state religion, ethnicity and religion. “
“No religion will be imposed on anyone and the state will not adopt an official religion,” he said, without specifying that Sudan would become a secular state, a controversial issue in the country’s transition.
Aman Amum, the secretary general of the SPLM-N, told Reuters on Sunday that reaching consensus on the role of religion in Sudanese politics was a breakthrough that would now speed up negotiations for a final peace settlement.
Sudan had now “accepted the separation of religion from the state,” Amum said.
It was unclear whether the Sudanese army, which shares power with a civilian executive branch, would support such initiatives after years of backing the Islamists.
Civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok signed a similar declaration with al-Hilu last year.
Sudan has been in conflict for decades. After the secession of the oil-rich south in 2011, an economic crisis fueled the protests that led to Bashir’s overthrow in 2019.
The SPLM-N operates in an area inhabited by minority Christians and followers of African beliefs who complain of long discrimination under Bashir’s regime.
Amum told Reuters the two sides would start negotiating on other issues such as power-sharing and the fate of fighters.
After Sunday’s signing, only one rebel group – a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) – remains a major security challenge for the government in Khartoum.
Led by Abdel Wahed el-Nur, the SLA is active in Jebel Marra, in the Darfur region of Sudan.