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Al-Hilu hails al-Burhan courage for accepting state impartiality towards religion

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Al-Burhan, al-Hilu, Kiir and Beasley raise hands after the signing of the DoP in Juba on 28 March 2021 (ST)March 28, 2021 (KHARTOUM) - The leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) praised the courage of the head of the Sovereign Council after the signing of the Declaration of Principles (DoP) separating religion and state.

The DoP was signed by Adel Fattah al-Burhan and Abdel Aziz al-Hilu Juba, Sunday, in a ceremony attended by President Salva Kiir and WFP Executive Director David Beasley who become a de facto facilitator for negotiations to end the conflict in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

The framework agreement provides that the state should be neutral and impartial in religious matters. Also, it provides that the SPLA combatants would be absorbed in the Sudanese army by the end of the transitional period after "resolution of the relationship between religion and state by the constitution".

The deal satisfies the aspiration of the SPLM-N for a secular state and responds to al-Burhan’s demand to integrate the SPLA fighters during the transition not after as it had been proposed by the armed group.

In a speech at the signing ceremony, the SPLM-N leader said that the Declaration of Principles paves the way for broader negotiations to translate the agreed principles into provisions that ensure achieving change in the country and implementing democratic reforms in Sudan.

He expressed hope that the negotiators would avoid "competing and duelling in useless matters" and keep the national interests in mind.

Al-Hilu’s cautious optimism refers to the difficult relationship between the SPLM-N al-Hilu negotiating team and the head of the government negotiating delegation Chems al-Din Kabbashi who is also from the Nuba Mountains.

In return, al-Hilu praised al-Burhan’s "bold step" that led to the signing of this Declaration, which is described as an "important breakthrough" that "may lead to the achievement of lasting peace and just unity".

For his part, al-Burhan stressed that the signing of the Declaration of Principles represents the beginning of the efforts of the transitional government to reach real change in Sudan to "create the state of citizenship, freedom and justice, and translates slogans raised by the revolutionaries".

He thanked South Sudan for the great effort it has been making to achieve peace in his country.

The head of the Sovereign Council stressed that the transitional government is determined to "achieve the change that everyone will accept and the Sudanese people have made sacrifices for" including the armed groups.

He pledged to establish a Sudan of justice and equality for the Sudanese people and future generations, where there is no distinction between North or South, religion or ethnicity, as he said.

Last November, Kabbashi objected to Hamdok’s agreement with al-Hilu on the separation of religion and state on 3 September 2020.

Also, the Sudanese military rejected the recommendation of a workshop held in Juba on the relationship between state and religion in November 2020. He said that the workshop did not discuss other issues, in reference to the military arrangements.

Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok welcomed the signing of the declaration as a courageous gesture and evidence of the solid will of all Sudanese - civilians and military - to complete the second phase of peace in Sudan, following the Juba Agreement and the Addis Ababa Agreement."

The SPLM-N led by Malik Agar also welcomed the signing of the declaration of principle adding it will consolidate peace in Sudan.

"Juba Declaration between General Burhan and Comrade Abdel-Aziz is a step forward towards peace. It strengthens the Juba Peace Agreement and it is fully welcome from our side," said Yasir Arman in a tweet posted after the signing of the framework agreement.

(ST)

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