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The New Arab Staff

Sudan, rebel leader agree to form secular state

Abdelaziz al-Hilu leads a rebel faction in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 March, 2021

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They agreed to the separation of the "identities of culture region, ethnicity and religion from the State".
The leader of Sudan's largest rebel group has agreed with the country's military ruler to establish a secular state, the Sudan Tribune reported.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the transitional Sovereign Council, and Abdelaziz al-Hilu are expected to sign a declaration to that effect on Sunday.

Hilu, leader of the rebel faction with the greatest territorial claims, was previously hold-out in negotiations with the Sudanese transitional government that came to power in 2019.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North leader had insisted upon the strict seperation of religion and state, controversial among conservative elements in the Muslim-majority country.

Sudan was ruled under a strict interpretation of Islam during the tenure of ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir. The country has a significant Christian minority, with smaller numbers adhering to indigenous animist religions.

Burhan and Hilu agreed to the "impartiality" of the state in matters of religion during talks in the South Sudanese capital of Juba this month.

They agreed to the formation of a "civil, democratic, federal state in Sudan" after the end of the transitional period, "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".

"No religion shall be imposed on anyone and the State shall not adopt any official religion," the declaration states.

The two leaders also agreed to the establishment of a united national army following the transitional period, meaning rebel fighters will be incorporated into the Sudanese military.

Hilu will soon begin talks with the Sudanese government to finalise a peace agreement, the Sudan Tribune reported.

The Darfur-based Sudan Liberation Movement-Army led by Abdel Wahid al-Nour is now the only major rebel group resisting talks with the transitional government.

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