SUDAN Oppressive and totalitarian 27th June 2003 The government threatens the Machakos peace process by holding on to its Islamist state Khartoum will never go back to being a secular capital and what forced us to execute the 30 June 1989 coup was the conspiracy against Sharia and the attempt to abrogate it'. Thus, on 18 June, President Omer Hassan Ahmed el Beshir admitted for the first time why the National Islamic Front had made its coup d'état when it did. That 'conspiracy' was in fact a peace process so advanced that the whole Sudan was anxiously awaiting a meeting between Premier El Sadig Sadeeg el Mahdi and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement leader, John Garang de Mabior. This peace process was very different from the current one under Western auspices at Machakos, Kenya. It involved all northern Sudanese parties (except the NIF, which opposed it), had no foreign mediators and envisaged the constitutional separation of state and religion. The Machakos talks were in trouble before Lieutenant General Omer's address to the Popular Organisation for Defending the Faith and the Homeland. There has been theoretical agreement on holding a referendum on self-determination in the south but Khartoum is also saying it won't allow secession. There is even less agreement on power-sharing, oil-revenue-sharing, the 'marginalised areas' between south and north (Abyei, Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile) and security (one army or two? AC Vol 44 No 12). One participant said it was 'a bizarre experience' to witness the SPLM negotiating with the mediators while the NIF sat in silence, monitoring. In the last round, which collapsed in May, there were no face-to-face meetings and minimal delegations.