Posted July 8, 2021 9:19 am by

KhartoumSudan, July 8 – A decade since South Sudan split from the northern rump state, old comrades left behind in Sudan still continue their fight against Khartoum — despite strongman Omar al-Bashir’s overthrow in 2019.

Holdout rebel commander Abdelaziz al-Hilu leads a faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and first took up arms 36 years ago, battling what he said was the marginalisation of African minorities by an Islamist and Arab-dominated government.

While Hilu has signed a cessation of hostilities deal with Khartoum, long-running peace talks with the rebels — who control enclaves in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states — were suspended last month pending “consultations”.

Hilu’s SPLM-N was once part of the rebel force fighting a 22-year civil war against Khartoum in which hundreds of thousands of people died, that ended in a 2005 peace agreement.

For South Sudan, that deal paved the way for a referendum on independence and its eventual secession as the world’s newest nation on July 9, 2011.

But as South Sudan celebrated, old guerrilla allies across the new border in Sudan — also home to many Christians and traditional religions — were left on their own in an overwhelmingly Muslim nation.

Any hope that “popular consultations” between rebels and the government in Khartoum might bear fruit had collapsed in heavy fighting with the army in June 2011, a month before Juba broke away.

“After the secession, he (Hilu) was like an orphan … and was left to fight another day,” said Sudanese analyst Magdi el-Gizouli of the Rift Valley Institute think-tank.

 

– Guns for ‘self-protection’ –

 

Grinding conflict in Sudan’s southern regions dragged on for years.

In 2017, a power struggle split the SPLM-N in two.

One faction, led by veteran fighter Malik Agar, signed a historic peace deal in October 2020 alongside rebels from the western Darfur region, after their former arch-enemy Bashir was toppled as president in 2019.

Since then, Agar has become a member of the country’s ruling sovereign council.

Hilu instead signed a separate ceasefire deal, insisting that his forces keep their guns for “self-protection” until Sudan’s constitution was changed to separate religion and government.

Hilu, a Muslim, told Sky News last year the fact state and religion are not separate in Sudan was at “the root of the Sudanese crisis which led the country into multiple civil wars” Read More…