Al-Hilo's Call For Self Determination, Is It A Tactic or A Popular Demand?

Al-Hilo's Call For Self Determination, Is It A Tactic or A Popular Demand?

KHARTOUM, 29 March 2017 (SUDANOW) - The Vice Chairman of the opposition Sudanese People's Liberation Movement- North (SPLM-N), Abdul Aziz al-Hilo, has sent the public opinion into excitement when he said: "They have abandoned the self-determination", criticizing the SPLM-N negotiating delegation led by the Movement's Secretary-General Yassir Arman after tendering his resignation.

Observers regarded this statement as a pressuring card by Hilo to win the main SPLM-N forces to his side against the Chairman and Secretary-General of the Movement.

Those observers believe that Hilo has used the self-determination card for tactical purposes as he has been advocating the unity of a new Sudan throughout the Interim Period that preceded the South Sudan self-determination referendum. This new position, however, has outraged many people and returned memories of the Naivasha Agreement of 2005 which led to the secession of South Sudan before the latter got into the current civil war.

The Secession Dream:

Other observers opine that, by waving this highly sensitive issue, Hilo uncovers a real plan he champions for making true a dream for secession of the Nuba Mountains, arguing that no politician can use strategic issues for tactical purposes unless they are among his preferences.

Despite the views of those observers about Hilo's motives, the issue of self-determination for the Nuba Mountains poses several questions on whether it is a genuine demand by the leadership and bases of the SPLM-N in South Kordofan or a wish by a silent majority of the people of the State and what is the possibility of meeting such a demand, bearing in mind the outcome of the South Sudanese experience? Has the project of dividing the Sudan into several states, including South Kordofan, vanished with the disappointments by the international and regional communities as well as the peoples of the Sudan with the end of the experience of South Sudan? Or is it a political message by the SPLM-N to the government and to the national political parties on the need for putting an end to the war and for rectifying the historic grievances the Nubians claim they are experiencing?

While the National Congress Party (NCP) sees no justification for the self-determination right for the Nuba Mountains region, arguing that the national dialogue has addressed all demands of the regions affected by the armed conflicts, the Popular Congress Party (PCP) predicts that the international community will not welcome the self-determination demand by the Liberation Council of the SPLM-N.

The vice chairman of the political sector of the NCP, Major General Abdulla Safi al-Nor has stated that talk about self-determination has become outdated, noting that the national dialogue conclusions have underlined support to the regions affected by the armed conflicts by implementing development projects in those regions. The present time is now for establishing national coalitions instead of narrow-minded party and personal demands, Nor added.

Opposition National Umma Party (NUP) leader Sadek al-Mahdi regards what is happening among his allies of the Sudan Call (SPLM-N leaders) an organizational crisis that harms the Sudan at large.

He pointed out that some elements in the SPLM-N still demand the self-determination, saying: "My brothers, you have seen what happened in South Sudan," with reference to the self-determination experience there, advising that there is no need to replay that failed and harmful experience and calling for agreement on removing the grievances as a means for thwarting the self-determination claims.

Mahdi advocated striking agreement with the moderate SPLM-N leaders, identifying Hilo and Chairman Malik Agar as moderates who want no evil to the Sudan, arguing that their option of war was due to the suspension of the protocols of the Two Areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile) of the Naivasha agreement which he said was full of defects, including the pending issues which have become time-bombs.

Future Change Forces (FCF) Secretary-General Farah Agar said Numerous Nubians of the SPLM-N membership, particularly those in the diaspora, aspire for gains for the region, apart from national demands, but in conformity to the international efforts for peace in Sudan. He ruled out persistence of the self-determination demand as mentioned in the resignation of the Vice Chairman of the Movement, Abdul Aziz al-Hilo, expecting it would be replaced by the autonomous rule system as previously agreed upon.

For his part, Sudan Scholars Council member Kindah Ghaboush who hails from South Kordofan, commenting on whether what Hilo had stated about the right to self-determination represents the view of the Nubians silent majority, said the position by Hilo was subjected to lengthy discussion in UM Baddah, a neighborhood of Omdurman where he said the Nubians constitute 60% of the population.

Ghaboush went on to say that, based on this discussion, the self-determination issue is absolutely out of question.

He has, however, stated that “the people of the district have grievances that need to be addressed.. there is need for development .. the citizens of the Nuba Mountains region now live in displacement in many parts of Sudan and abroad.. some of our fellow citizens are held captive by the SPLM-N ..but all of this would not deter us from preferring to live in a united Sudan.”

“By this position al-Hilo just wants to show how committed he is to the cause of the Nubians, especially under the strong present push towards peace and the U.S pressures on the SPLM-N to opt for peace. Al-Hilo is running after his own interests rather than the concerns of the Nubian people,” Ghabboush maintained, further.

“I personally have contacted Jagoad Mukwar, chief of staff of the SPLM-N, who confirmed to me that the Nubians were true Sudanese wondering from whom they would ask for self-determination,’’ Ghaboush has added..

He said Mukwar had told him that the Nubians had grievances ever since the independence of Sudan and that they (the SPLM-N) would strive to reinstate the Nuba Mountains area, its institutions and its name as they were before.

"I believe Mukwar is honest in what he says," Ghaboush said.

A Political Message:

While the analyses indicate that the ceiling of the demands rises with the protracted conflict, political analyst Mohamed al-Amin believes that Hilo intended to send a political tactical message to the government with specific objectives. He indicates that the South Sudanese experience and the aftermath of the independence makes the self-determination unwelcome among the Nubians and that Hilo himself is aware that the call is unwelcome even among the Nubian SPLM-N members.

Amin opines that the political and social leaderships in the State believe that the right to self-determination option has become impractical, not even a card for maneuver as all cards of the game have changed in the wake of the South Sudanese experience.

Political analyst Safwat Fanous considers the issue that was raised by Hilo from different angles. He thinks that a large sector of leaderships and some Nubians believe that they can enjoy the boons and cultures of their region only through an autonomy. Dr. Fanous said they also believe that their participation in the central government is difficult, if not impossible because they are a minority. That situation would not encourage them to try to attain high and sensitive positions in the central government. For that reason some Nuba leaderships prefer to look Southwards.

Fanoos believes that al-Hilu’s call does not resonate well among the majority of the Nuba people. This is contrary to the situation in Southern Sudan where the call for separation was popular, as could be seen in the 2011 referendum.

Dr.Fanoos is of the belief that the current move led by al-Hilo in the SPLM-N will not receive adequate support among the Nuba people ‘’because the majority of the public are Moslems and have no problem with Islamic and Arab culture. We cannot imagine that they have such a high degree of sensitivity towards Arabism.’’

The Nuba people, Dr. Fanoos further argues, do not live alone in Southern Kordofan. Their area is one for co-existence among different Sudanese groups. That could become one of the factors that encourage the district to remain within a greater Sudan.

However, observers note that the demand for self-determination for the Nuba Mountains region has surfaced under organizational disputes within the SPLM-N ranks but must be dealt with in a strategic manner to avert what has occurred in South Sudan and its secession, particularly as the birth of a new state creates further crisis in a tumultuous world.



Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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