January 12, 2020 (KHARTOUM) – The leader of the National Umma Party, Sadiq al-Mahdi rejected the demand of the SPLM-N led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu for a secular state in Sudan as a condition to end the armed conflict in the Two Areas.
Addressing a public meeting on Saturday in Sinja the capital of Sennar state Saturday, al-Mahdi told his supporters that every political entity has the right when elections are held to campaign for the separation of religion from the state, or to call for a religious state or other political convictions.
“But someone cannot say that if you do not accept my political programme, I will not accept peace. Peace should be agreed upon by removing the causes that led to the war,” he said without naming the SPLM-N al-Hilu.
Also, at the end of his long speech, al-Mahdi once again recalled that he in August 2014 signed the Paris Declaration with the SRF groups stressing that it provides to establish a civilian state in Sudan and not a secular state.
He added that the meeting was attended by al-Hilu and Abdel Wahid al-Nur of the Sudan Liberation Movement who also calls for a secular state in Sudan.
The civilian state is similar to the secular state as it means to not mix religion with the political affairs and to establish a citizenship state. However, it has a different philosophical concept which is not hostile to religion.
Talks between the SPLM-N al-Hilu and the transitional government delegation in Juba are stalled over the secular state as Khartoum says the secular state would be discussed in the constitutional conference, not the peace talks as demands the armed group.
Al-Hilu split the group in 2017 because his former comrades refused to demand the discussion of the secular state in the peace talks with the al-Bashir regime.
Also, he was keen to insist on the secular state in his speech at the visit of Abdallah Hamdok to Kauda on 9 January.
Nevertheless, Hamdok showed optimism that the country was “approaching peace with a confident and steady pace,” as he said.
During his speech in Sinja, the NUP leader demanded that the majority of the 18 civilians governors be given to his party saying that the last democratic elections in April 1986 demonstrated that his party was the largest political force in Sudan.
“The choice of the governor must be with the consent of the people of the region, or at least with the consent of the overwhelming majority, otherwise they will cooperate with him”.
He further warned they will call to hold elections for the governors if his demand is rejected.
More than once, al-Mahdi said he would call for anticipated elections before the end of the three-year transitional period.
The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) said they nominated 14 governors and handed their list to the prime minister and vowed to finalize the process soon.