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Interview: SLM leader rejects Darfur peace talks with Sudan

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Jan 2, 2006 (LONDON) — Rebel leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement rejected peace talks with the Sudanese government to end the four-year conflict in Darfur. Instead, he added that this regime “should go and be replaced by secular democratic system”

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Abdelwahed al-Nour

In an interview with the Sudan Tribune, the leader of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) Abdelwahid al-Nur said he rejects peace negotiations with the Sudanese government to resolve Darfur crisis.

Al-Nur explained he can not negotiate with a regime that “committing genocide against [Darfur] people”. He also said that the lack of credibility of the ruling National Congress Party undercuts any serious efforts for a negotiated settlement. “This regime has failed to implement one single previous agreement” he said.

According to Al-Nur the solution of Darfur crisis should be within a comprehensive settlement of the Sudan’s problem. “There is only one solution which is that this genocidal regime should go, and to be replaced by secular democratic system.”

Al-Nur detailed for the first time the taken steps to reunite the movement. Also, he explained why the faction of G19 reintegrated the movement.

On the relations with the SPLM, Al-Nur hailed the late Dr John Garang and the current leadership of the movement. But he distinguished between two streams within the SPLM. He clearly supported those who are seeking for “New Sudan”. Nonetheless he demarcated his difference with them because they see the Sudan as one state with two systems (Secular in the South and Islamic in the North). Instead, Al-Nur expressed his preference for a united Sudan with a secular state.

All through the interview, the leader of the SLM explained his attachment to the secular state to realize unity and equality in the country. He provided Sudan Tribune a paper, that we publish separately, on this question.

The following is the full text of the interview with the leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement Abdelwahid Mohamed Ahmed al-Nur:

- Mr. Abdulwahid Mohamed Ahmed Al-Nur, you are the founder and chairman of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), what is the vision of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM)?

Al-Nur: Thank you for having me in your nice and comfortable place. First, I would like to take this opportunity to say Happy New Year and Happy Eid Aladha Almubark to the people of Darfur in their Internal Displace and Refugee Camps and to all Darfurians in Sudan and Diaspora, also to the people of Sudan and the international community at large, and we hope that year 2007, will be a year of peace and stability in Darfur, Sudan, Africa and the world.

Second, our vision is very simple, Sudan Liberation Movement is political organization that seeks to create secular united Sudan base on equal citizenship rights and aggregate interests of the all Sudanese people.

ORIGINS OF THE MOVEMENT

- When and how the SLM, founded?

Al-Nur: Most of us recognize that Sudan is going through great turmoil. The fundamental reality of our sad political, social, cultural and economic life was dating back to our independent day in 1956, which formulated on the existence of few dominant elites in central governments in Khartoum. This reality made the majority of our people feel alienated or that the polity is not theirs to engage in. We conceived these precise scopes of exclusion remain the most serious threat to the unity and stability of our country. One of the most important lessons we must remember from the most of political parties (right and left wing political parties) including the current regime is that they have failed to create coherent political visions that give equal representation to our contemporarily diverse Sudanese society. For much of our modern history, the policies of the state are exclusive to some individual, groups and regions. The power is actually concentrated in a central regime’s vision which gave ultimate rights to one or few groups of people to rule the country, and deny the equal representation to the majority of the people of Sudan. Most of the time however, there is constitution policy emphasis on one culture, language and religion hold the idea that all citizens have to assimilate to such ethos. In this regard, most of the Sudanese people are unwilling to tolerate such practices.

An increasing number of people today consider the political process exclusive, unrepresentative, and it has failed to reflect the diversity of all Sudanese people and their regions. A vivid illustration is the constitution set up of the country, in which the fundamental terms of our political life is being decided by a few elites in the central government. They have excluded the majority of the society from their equal citizenship rights. Some people excluded from sharing political power, public office, and many other rights. Regions have been excluded from their equitable share of wealth, development, and socio-economic programs. Of course the dearth of some individuals and groups sharing political power and public office continues in Sudan long before today’s demand and struggle for equal citizenship rights. This exclusion is build into the very calculable conceptual framework of denial of equal rights to some specific individuals and groups of people of our country. At the same time, the regime committed genocide in South Sudan, Nuba Mountains, South Blue Nile and in Darfur and we do not know tomorrow will be in other parts of the Sudan such as Kurdfan, East Sudan or Al Hamdab area in far North Sudan.

The question, then, is, can we let the ongoing genocide continue endlessly? Similarly, can we let the unequal distribution of wealth and power remains heavily controlled by members of few elites in central regimes in Khartoum and let them practicing their exclusion policies forever? Can we expect a just and fair, open process of democracy that is responsive to the public will; as well as consensus about how this process ought to work? Can we achieve respect and equal citizenship rights to all our Sudanese people? Why have we had such difficulty learning to coexist together as a nation? What can be done to eradicate such practices and hold our country and its contemporarily diverse society together?

In early 1990s, when we were Student at University we came up with the idea that we should strive to realize a new system of rule that fully respects our diversity and creates inclusive new democratic system. For these reasons, we came up with idea of Secular United Sudan, and we believe that this is the only method of solving our problems and keep us united together as a nation.

To achieve our Secular objective, we went through different strategic plans (civil, military, diplomatic and political mobilization). First, the civil mobilization, we mobilize our civil society against the few elites whom using religion (Islam vs. Christianity/ Islamic Jehad against non muslins) to kill our people in South Sudan, Nuba Mountains, South Blue Nile, Angassana…etc., and at the same time using race and tribe (Arabs vs. non Arabs/African) to commit genocide against our people in Darfur. In the same way, we mobilize our people against the huge economic, social and cultural inequalities all over the Sudan.

Second, the military mobilization; unfortunately, the regime was committing genocide against our people in Darfur. We tried to convince the regime to stop the genocide against our people in Darfur and other places in Sudan and to sit with us and negotiate peaceful political settlement. The regime refused our proposal; and its president Omar Albashir stated clearly in the media that his government will not negotiate with any body unless carrying out weapons against them. So, we have been enforced to create our military faction in 2000-2003, and that was for two reasons, first to protect our people from the genocide against them, and force the regime to sit with us and negotiate the political settlement that we believe is the root causes of the conflict in Darfur and Sudan at large.

Third, the diplomatic mobilization; we worked very hard to enlighten the international community about our just cause, and we believe that we succeeded, and now you can see the positive results from the response of the international community to our just cause. Isn’t it beautiful?

- Yes, it is very beautiful. It seems that you are very optimistic?

Al-Nur: Yes, I am very optimistic when you come in here. And there is a reason why. You cannot lead people unless you have a vision and you are optimistic about what you are doing and believe it in your very soul. So, I am not only optimistic, I strongly believe in the decisions I make, I am optimistic that they are going to work. And so, the other thing I want you to know is that no matter how pressurized it may seem, I am not changing what I believe. I might change tactics, but I am not going to change my core beliefs, a belief that Sudan should be a secular state that base on citizenship rights. And I am not changing. I don not care whether they like me at the social life, or not; I will leave this life with my integrity.

We understand that some people in parts of the Sudan disagree with our secular state’s vision. It does not bother us. Our vision is never to promote a religion. Our simple believe is that you should be able to worship freely. People are free to choose their religious and faith, but they are equally Sudanese whether they are Muslim, Christian, or Atheist, they are equal in their citizenship rights. In other words, all Sudanese people are equal and that if we ever lose that, we begin to look like the extremist or religious fundamentalist.

UNITY OF THE SLM

- It is true that after Abuja Peace Agreement, you lost most of your members as well as some sort of your leadership?

Al-Nur: That is not true. Today, SLM/A, is well united and stronger than ever before.

- What about the idea that there are many SLM/A, fractions in your movement?

Al-Nur: There are only two fractions. One is under my leadership and the other led by Mr. Minnawi. So, all these are media exaggerations to undermine SLM/A, leadership. Let me explain to you about the historical make up of these fractions. First, Minni Minnawi’s (Haskanita),fraction. This fraction let by Mr. Minnawi in October 2005, for different reasons and now he signed the Abuja Agreement and became part of National Congress in Khartoum. The second fraction is Group of Nineteen (G19), led by Marjan and Jaralnabi and others. This fraction was created during Abuja negotiations because of some sorts of misconceptions, but when they realized that we did not signed the Abuja agreement, they rejoined us (SLM). In fact, there is Ahmed Abdulshafi and Abulgasim Emam Alhaj. I do respect these two persons, we have come through long journey, but according to their age and when we refaced to sign Abuja Agreement, they felt that we left out alone and no one with us even the international community left us alone, and more than that putting high pressure on us to sign the agreement. So, they thought that it is better to make a deal with the regime and for these reason Abulgasim Alhaj made himself as a military fraction and Abdulshafi the political leader. Abulgasim went and signed the agreement with the regime in Triply- Libya and Abdulshafi left out. Now, we are working hard to bring Abdulshafi to the board. Also as you know, the Khartoum regime always using the policy of dived and concur/ rule in order to divide our movement and make media propaganda that most of our people are joined Abuja Agreement or as if we are many disorganized fractions and it is difficult to deal with. Because of these reasons, the regime brought some individuals such as Abdulrhaman Mussa, Ibrahim Mossa Madibo, Abulgasim Eimam Alhaj and others, and made a deal with them. All these regime tactics in order to put pressure on us to sign the agreement, and we will not do so.

- What about the question of reunification of SLM/A?

Al-Nur: As I told you earlier that due to some financial shortages, we have some organizational difficulties and we are working hard to restructure it, and we went fast on that, but we are not going to tell you our approaches simply if the Khartoum regime discover that it will district our reunification process.

Also I would like to say that our movement is a political before to be military one, so the military fraction is only Ten Percent (10%), and the rest is civil society or political body, and we do not have any organizational problems in this body, in fact it is well organized body.

OTHER MOVEMENTS IN DARFUR

- How is your relation with other movements in Darfur?

Al-Nur: what do you mean by other movements in Darfur?

- I mean like Dr. Khalil Ibrahim, Ahmed Draj, Dr. Sharief Harir and others.

Al-Nur: I do not think that these are movements; I think these are individuals and I do have good social relations with all of them.

- What about National Redemption Front (NRF)?

Al-Nur: is there any movement called NRF?

- I do not know.

Al-Nur: I do not know either.

- How is your relation with other Sudanese political parties?

Al-Nur: I hove respectable relations with most of them.

- How is your relation with SLM/A, lead by Minni Minawi?

Al-Nur: In personal level, Mr. Minnwi is a good friend. But in organizational level, he has chosen to sign Abuja agreement with National Congress Party and we choose not to sign, also we are seeking to stop the genocide against our people in Darfur as well as to create Secular United Sudan and I do not know what Mr. Minnawi’s political vision. This is our difference.

- Do you see that Mr. Minnawi will rejoin the SLM/A, under your leadership?

Al-Nur: I hope so.

- If he did so, are you going to welcome him back?

Al-Nur: Yes I do, he is more than welcome. I believe that SLM/A, has vision and open for everyone who believe in this vision. Our final end is to stop the ongoing genocide in Darfur and construct secular united Sudan and we welcome anyone who believes in our vision.

SLM AND SPLM

- How important the relationship between Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), in South Sudan, when it comes to the notion of New Sudan?

Al-Nur: We have good relation with SPLM. The common vision between the SLM and SPLM is a vital. We all think to transcend similar vision. Part of our relationship is working together to achieve equal citizenship rights to our people in Sudan. Also, there are many other areas where we can and will continue to work together.

- What are the differences between Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)?

Al-Nur: First let me say this; we do respect the SPLM, as a leading revolution movement in Sudan, Africa and the world. We learn most of our evolutional ideas form SPLM, leaders especially from late Dr. John Grang. And in personal level, I do respect the SPLM, leaders, in particular Dr. John, the first Vice President Salva Kare and many friends like Yaser Arman, Commander Biour and others. However, there are some differences between our organization (SLM), and SPLM. For instance, there are two views in the SPLM, leaders. One group believes in self determination (separatist group). We do respect their idea. Nevertheless, we believe that Sudan is one country and for all Sudanese people regardless of their differences. In other words, while they believe in separate Sudan, we believe in one united secular Sudan.

The second groups of SPLM are those who are seeking for “New Sudan”. In principles, we are very close to each other. However, our difference is that they conceive “New Sudan” as one state with two systems. In other words, they divided the country into “North and South”, and they see that it could be Shariea Law (Islamic Law), in the North and secularism in the South. However, we believe in one united Sudan, one constitutional system based on secularism and equal representation.

NO PEACE TALKS WITH THE GOVERNMENT

- According to some news there will be negotiations between “non signatures of Abuja Agreement” and Khartoum government, are you going to be part of this negotiations?

Al-Nur: So far no one informed us about any upcoming negotiations with National Congress Party, and even so, we are not going to be a part of any negotiations with this regime.

- : Why you are refusing to negotiate?

Al-Nur: We do not refuse negations. But, how can we negotiate with someone who committing genocide against our people. In short, we do not trust the National Congress Party. It is not honest. For instance, this regime is continuing its genocidal program in our people in Darfur. Kill our people everyday, bombing our areas, arresting and harassing our people in cities and towns…etc. In the same way, this regime has failed to implement one single previous agreement. It failed to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), with SPLM/A, Cairo Agreement with National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and now Darfur Peace Agreement with Minni Minawi and East Sudan Peace Agreement. Not only that, there are about Ten (10) UN, resolutions on Darfur, and this regime has failed to implement one of them. According to all these terrible experiences, this regime is not serious and will never be.

REGIME CHANGE IS THE ONLY SOLUTION

- What is the solution then?

Al-Nur: There is only one solution which is that this genocidal regime should go, and to be replaced by secular democratic system. The current regime is an enemy which has clear and motivated ambitions. They want to spread their ideology all over the Sudan, neighboring countries, Africa and the world. They want to fall down any secular idea. They have stated clearly they will kill anyone disagree with them. This is what the president of the current regime has said; and we think those of us in positions of responsibility must take his words very seriously.

- Isn’t that difficult for the people of Darfur whom are living under harsh condition in refugee and internal displaced camps and you are looking to over through the government and create secular united Sudan?

Al-Nur: First, peace is not just signing of paper. Peace is a matter of feeling and security of our people, and we do not think that any agreement with current regime will bring peace and security to our people. Second, if we consider the problem of Darfur is just isolated incidents, this attitude will ultimately lead to more catastrophe, more danger in Darfur and all over Sudan. So, we have to think that Darfur problem is part of Sudan’s problem and the solution should be comprehensive for all Sudan not just for Darfur.

- Do you think that SLM/A will defeat the National Congress Party?

Al-Nur: Absolutely, they can be defeated, and they will be defeated as long as we do not lose our nerve and courage. Let me tell you this, we are stronger than before, and the genociders become more and more isolated. In this sense, we are strongly committed to stop the killing of our people in Darfur and all over the country, defeat this regime and build our secular united Sudan. So, we are very confident that we will defeat the National Congress Party and follow those who committed genocide against our people wherever they hide and bring them to justice, and let them to recognize that the world has changed from the world of the past because of human rights, justice, human solidarity, and liberty.

- How do you conceive the reconciliation of the differences among the people of Sudan?

Al-Nur: There is a need to be more understanding among the Sudanese people. The needs should be a better understanding of our differences such as beliefs, culture, language…etc. We have to find a better and respectable way to communicate with ourselves and with each other. So, reconciliation shall be through respect, understanding and toleration among all Sudanese people.

- What is your message to Darfurians, Sudanese people and the international community?

Al-Nur: We would like to express our deepest gratitude and respect to our people of Darfur in IDPs, refugee camps, towns, cities and Diaspora; as well as to our fellow Sudanese people and the international community for their continuous solidarity and humane support. Also, we would like to extend our appeal to those who believe in humanity to help us to stop the genocide against our people in Darfur and help us to return our people to their homes and protect them from the genociders. Overall to support us to reach our final end with is a secular united Sudan.

(ST)

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