November 2, 2020 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, led by Abdel Aziz al-Hilu, revealed that the head of the Sudanese government delegation, Shams al-Din Kabbashi, rejected the recommendations of the workshop on the relationship between state and religion.
A workshop on the state’s relationship with religion was held in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, over the past week concerning the gaps between the government and the movement, as a result of the joint agreement between al-Hilu and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok on September 3.
“The Movement agreed to the facilitators and experts’ report proposing to separate religion from the state, in order to ensure a peaceful solution,” said the Movement’s spokesman, Koko Mohamed Jagdoul, in a statement extended to the Sudan Tribune on Monday.
“But in the closing session, Kabbashi rejected the outcomes of the workshop after having accepted them and congratulated the facilitators outside the hall.”
Jagdoul further pointed out that the head of the government delegation, Kabbashi, and the delegation’s spokesperson, Mohamed Hassan Eltaishi, were absent from most of the workshop sessions.
Consequently, the SPLM-N held Kabbashi responsible for the failure of the workshop, noting that its paramount goal was to reach a consensus on the relationship between religion and the state.
“Failure to accept the 3 September agreement means not accepting the separation of religion from the state and rejecting the peace process,” stressed the spokesman.
On September 3, the Sudanese Prime Minister agreed to introduce the subject of the relationship between the state and religion in the peace talks with al-Hilu, hold informal workshops, then reach a common understanding on the matter before resuming formal talks.
The SPLM demand made including the relationship of the state with religion in the peace negotiations their chief condition.
The workshop, which took place on Saturday and Sunday, was attended by representatives of both the Sudanese government and the SPLM-North and several experts, and in addition to the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG), the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), the PDS consultants, and the South Sudanese mediation team.
The SPLM-N spokesman said that the workshop held deep discussions on the debate about keeping religion out of secular government affairs.
Furthermore, local and international experts presented several models of the separation in a Muslim majority country, but the Turkish model appeared to be the most comparable to the Sudanese situation, he said.
“The two parties agreed on a final report draft proposed by the facilitators and experts, and it was read to the participants from both parties without objection.”
However, surprisingly, the representatives of the transitional government voiced reservations about some provisions, he added.
Sudan Tribune sought some clarification from Eltaishi, the spokesman for the Sudanese government delegation, but he did not comment on the alleged failure of the workshop.
A member of the Sovereign Council commented that the transitional government is looking forward to setting a time for the commencement of direct negotiations between the government and the Movement.
The September 3 agreement stipulates that negotiations will resume only after reaching an agreement concerning the relationship between religion and the state.
Kabbashi and Eltaishi returned to Khartoum on Monday evening.