Japan’s international peace operations in South Sudan
Click to share on WhatsApp Opens in new window The debate around religion and the State in Sudan and how to define the role of Islamic law in the legal realm — and in public life in particular — is a riddle that has since independence haunted politicians and the Sudanese elite alike. Post-separation, it was indisputably the key point of disagreement between the armed movements and the Bashir regime until it fell in April and remains today an issue that is yet to be resolved.
The relation between religion and the State will need to be properly addressed if the Sudanese people wish to build a nation on the basis of citizenship, without discrimination based on religion, race, or culture and without imposing an Arab-Islamic identity on a country so diverse.
The peace agreement signed on 3 October in Juba, the capital of South Sudan the Juba Peace Agreement , 1 The Agreement was signed between the Sudanese government, the Revolutionary Front a broad alliance between armed movements and other powers , and the Minni Minawi wing of the Sudan Liberation Movement, in the presence of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and the presidents of the Sudanese Transitional Council of Sovereignty and the Cabinet of Sudan Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and Abdallah Hamdouk, respectively , attempted to outline the post-independence relationship between religion and the State.
Perhaps it will provide a general framework for an intelligent dialogue on a complex issue that requires agreement on the epistemological foundations that define it. Citizenship as the basis of rights and duties in the Juba Peace Agreement The Juba Peace Agreement is a comprehensive agreement in the form of several detailed protocols aimed at addressing the fundamental issues of the Sudanese crises in Darfur, the regions of South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, and other marginalized regions.
It is the outcome of nearly a year of tireless work in Juba between the transitional government and the armed opposition movements and constitutes, undoubtedly, a step in the right direction.
However, the current challenge facing political and social forces in finding real peace evolves around building a modern democratic state that respects the diversity of the Sudanese people and does not discriminate against them on the basis of race, tribe, religion, gender, sex, or origin.
Lasting peace will not be achieved without strengthening existing institutions and establishing new ones that are effective, independent and sustainable. The relationship between religion and the State was strikingly present in the agreement, albeit to varying degrees and with no explicit reference to secularism which many Sudanese associate with atheism.
The agreement specified the complete separation between religious and state institutions to guarantee religion is not used for political ends and ensure the protection of religious freedoms. It also provided that citizenship forms the basis of rights and duties without discrimination. This does not preclude the existence of laws, programs, or activities that seek to improve the conditions of individuals and groups who have been disadvantaged because of their race, colour, religion, and regional or national origin.
The agreement also affirmed that the State would consider equal all religions and cultures without any bias and established a national commission for religious freedoms to protect the rights of Christians and other minorities. It also granted South Kordofan and the Blue Nile a self-governance status that defines the purviews of local and federal powers, including drafting laws that will be based — according to the agreement — upon the constitution considered by some the closest to secularism.
Moreover, the Addis Ababa Agreement specified that the freedoms of conscience, worship, and religion are fully guaranteed to all Sudanese citizens and that the State is neither allowed to adopt an official religion nor discriminate between citizens based on their religion.
This explains perhaps why al-Helou has so far failed to reach a final agreement with the government of Dr Abdallah Hamdouk, as he considers the separation of religion and State a precondition before joining the peace plans, just like the other armed movements. The dispute around religion has formed the basis of the relationship between the Muslim-majority North and Christian-majority South until their partition in , as it was closely tied to the vision of traditional and sectarian parties and their conceptualization of the State.
The transitional constitution of was devoid of any mention of religion. The Constituent Assemblies elected after attempted to draft a permanent constitution by first adopting a transitional one the Draft Constitution of that stipulated that Sudan be a democratic socialist parliamentary republic guided by Islam.
However, the Constituent Assembly at that time failed to review the draft constitution because of internal schisms, in addition to the withdrawal of some of its members including Christian ones. The Constituent Assembly was never able to agree upon a plan for a permanent constitution and was dissolved on 25 May due to the onset of the May Revolution led by Jaafar Nimeiry. During the Nimeiry era, the Constitution introduced a provision establishing Islam as the majority religion for the first time, while still recognizing Christianity as the religion of a large number of citizens.
Another provision specified that the State would treat followers of different religions and spiritual beliefs without discrimination and respect their rights and freedoms.
The Constitution also stipulated for the first time that Islamic law and custom were the primary sources of legislation, while the personal status matters of non-Muslims would be governed by their own personal laws. In , Nimeiry reneged on the Addis Ababa Agreement, amending it to impose for the first time Hudud punishments. For example, alongside the addition of the Hudud punishments to the Penal Code in , judges were granted the power to implement Islamic penalties even if not explicitly prescribed.
The Civil Procedural Law stipulated that in matters without prevailing legislation, the courts would apply existing Islamic laws and principles. Moreover, they would follow the rules set down in the Sources of Judicial Decisions Law of After the agreement and the crafting of the Constitution, the North made concessions on this issue within the constitution itself.
After the fall of the Bashir regime in , the signed Constitutional Charter was ratified between the Forces of Freedom and Change and the Military Council, which, for the first time since the Transitional Constitution, has neither mentioned the institutionalization of Islamic law nor established Islam as the official religion. In doing so, the Charter left aside a controversial issue that the Sudanese were unable to address at the time, as they were engaged in negotiations aimed at finding a common framework to share power with the Military Council.
Have the Juba and Addis Ababa Agreements been successful in understanding the relationship between religion and the state? However, it does not explain how this may realistically be achieved. Moreover, it did not explicitly stipulate the separation between religion and State. Will the State refrain from intervening in religious institutions while guaranteeing freedom of worship for its citizens?
How can we understand the relationship between religion and the State within the framework of the Juba Peace Agreement? Will the State guarantee freedom of religion and religious practice?
Will it commit to its neutrality in religious affairs, refraining from using state institutions in any religious activities? All of these are questions left unaddressed by the Juba Peace Agreement. They are contentious issues that may need to be resolved during the Constitutional Conference which, according to the Constitutional Charter, will be held at the end of the transitional period.
On the other hand, the Addis Abba Agreement was clearer in stipulating that the State should not establish an official religion and that it should not discriminate based on religion. The call for secularism, however, has been explicit in the Nuba Mountains region under the control of Abdel Aziz al-Helou. Its adoption is a primary precondition for the movement to accept any final peace agreement.
This does not necessarily reflect the concept of separation of religion and State as defined by Abdel Aziz al-Helou. The danger lies in the fact that the Addis Ababa Agreement linked the separation of religion and State to the right to self-determination. Sudan has always been a religiously diverse country, but with religious powers in the political arena, religion will continue to organize various aspects of daily life and control behaviours of society rather than be relegated to the ceremonial and symbolic realm.
This strains the relationship between the State and religion and leads to extreme polarization. The experience of Islamists in power for three decades clearly demonstrated that if any constitution the Sudanese intend to discuss adopts a specific religion even if it is the majority religion or provides that Sharia should be one of the sources or the main source of legislation to take precedence over the constitution itself, this cannot guarantee the implementation of the high values which Islam embraces in practice, concerning equality, justice, freedom, and human dignity.
This is especially true if the constitution is accompanied by a political ideology that imposes a religious standard on all of its citizens Muslim or not. Likewise, the absence of such provisions from the constitution does not necessarily mean that religion will be separated from society. In its essence, religion is a private matter.
The State does not pray, fast, or pay zakat, as these are all personal obligations. Similarly, designating the State as secular is not necessarily a safety-valve that guarantees basic freedoms often enumerated in constitutions and ensured in international and regional agreements on human rights. The Nimeiry regime did not initially impose Islamic law and Hudud, but he nevertheless ruled autocratically, imprisoning and executing his opponents.
Will the Sudanese find what they are looking for in a civil state? Perhaps what the Sudanese are looking for is a civil state in the broadest of terms. Such a State does not disavow religion, but rather allows for a political space where all religions are treated equally.
The foundation of the civil state is the citizen. It is not ruled by religious men, military men, or any higher apparatus that is not elected outside the framework of the social contract. This will lead to political stability without falling into the trap of building modern institutions completely devoid of their institutional objectives. Some see in the civil state a parallel to an extreme or aggressive secularism that calls for atheism. This is a reductive and imprecise view.
Sudan will only progress by building a modern system for a civil state that does not hold an extreme position against freedom of religion as an individual right and works for the separation between religion and politics. The Juba Peace Agreement stipulated that the state should consider equal all religions and cultures.
On the other hand, the complete separation between religious and state institutions makes it difficult to understand what is intended by the agreement without referring to specific institutions. For example, the president of the body, Dr Muhammad Othman Salih decreed in that it is not permissible to disobey the ruler, indicating that such behaviour is essentially forbidden.
There is also the Islamic Fiqh Academy financed by the state and considered one of its political and religious arms. The academy thus took advantage of religious principles and values by granting political legitimacy to the actions of the Bashir regime. The discussion around the separation between religion and state in all of its political, social, and legal complexities has not so far been addressed in a systematic and in-depth way in Sudan.
Finding a framework to define the relationship between religion and the State has been dependent upon political circumstances and the context in which the constitution was written. As a result, political events and those surrounding the formation of the constitution are inextricably linked. It has been difficult for the Sudanese to accept a social contract that accommodates their diversity.
On the one side is the obsession of the Islamist movement in establishing a theocratic government in which statemen have supreme authority in managing state affairs, all in the name of religion. On the other side is the desire for the separation of religion and State no matter what this may entail by establishing a constitution that organizes the State around citizenship. The inevitable result has been a fabricated and false division between the secular left and the religious right that has led to wars and repeated failures in managing diversity.
It has also led to the creation of elitist solutions at the level of the political elite who have treated urgent political necessities in an effort to achieve peace without addressing the most critical questions: How should the Sudanese organize the relationship between religion and the State?
How should they be involved in the ongoing discussions seeking to understand this relationship? What are the required concessions to be made by all? Tackling these questions will be a long and draining process but is essential for building the State. The reality that for many Sudanese religion is a central part of their national identity cannot be disregarded.
Therefore, it cannot be determined at this stage that any future constitution for Sudan will not adopt an official religion in the way the Addis Ababa Agreement states. Nor is it known if the civil state as defined above can constitute the minimum level of political consensus towards finding a final framework between religion and the State in a diverse country like Sudan.
The link between the right to self-determination in the two regions and the separation of religion and the State explains the depth of the crisis. Moreover, it shows the lack of confidence even with the transitional government that emerged following the popular revolution to which the Sudanese army allied itself.
Conclusion One of the most important matters resting with the transitional government in Sudan is to find lasting and just peace throughout the country. However, we cannot disregard the fact that the government of Dr Abdallah Hamdouk does not have a parliamentary bloc, nor does he represent all the Sudanese people even if he was endorsed in an unprecedented manner by the different powers.
The separation between religion and the State may well be one of the elements of the civil state for which the Sudanese have called to guarantee against the exploitation of religion in politics.
This does not inevitably lead to the separation of religion from society but rather to the non-employment of religion and its preachers in the political realm. Religion belongs to God, but the country must accommodate everyone. Perhaps the time has come for the Sudanese to engage in societal and intellectual discussions around the relationship between religion and the State. A lack of satisfaction with the stipulations in agreements may contribute to or detract from establishing pillars of a democratic state in which citizenship forms the basis of rights and duties.
Importantly, these rights would be safeguarded without any discrimination.
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He found safe haven in the Ayilo Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda, but lost track of his family. The carnage he witnessed has stayed with him. But there is one thing that takes his mind off those horrors: football. When I play football, I forget about the past because it keeps my mind occupied. Though they have found safety, young refugees are struggling to move forward with their lives.
They have few educational or job opportunities, and many lack role models and social support, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and disease. Mike Marchar, now 22, says football takes his mind off the past. It has also introduced him to new friends and information about making healthy choices. These efforts — which include sports and drama programmes — not only provide welcome entertainment, but also introduce critical information about their rights and their bodies, helping them make informed decisions about their health and well-being.
Marchar, who is now Like Mr. Marchar, he finds solace in sports, but his game of choice is basketball. But he is already a star in his community — not because he is an athlete but because he is a volunteer. So you introduce basketball in a community with many young people… and people gather to watch.
Their fight escalated until the local council was called. Violence of any form is illegal, a community leader reminded them, advising that they resolve their dispute through mediation. The audience roared with applause. This is how Ms. Dadia and her fellow cast members knew their lessons were well received. She is one of 13 members of the Peace Drama Group, which tackles difficult health and social issues with skits, poems and songs.
Thon works with many who reach out to pregnant women with information about antenatal care and other important health services.
South Sudanese women as young as 12 or 14 have been surviving as prostitutes. Many work in the Gumbo, a run-down area near the capital city of Juba. Many of these women are HIV-positive.
However, they earn less than one dollar per client.
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CCC acts as a refuge for dozens of children, particularly girls. Survivors of sexual assault have no access to mental health resources. In a United Nations UN independent commission report70 percent of South Sudanese women in Juba suffered some form of sexual assault by the end of Additionally, the same report found that survivors had barely any resources to help their physical or mental recovery from the assault. Doing something about it: The International Rescue Committee IRC is a nonprofit that provides aid to those fleeing conflict or natural disaster.
The IRC recently set up 13 centers focused solely on assisting survivors of gender-based violence.
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The centers provide the women a place to meet regularly to discuss their trauma. Lilian Dawaa South Sudanese refugee herself, runs one such centers in Uganda. Dawa says that the women greatly value the centers where they also learn skills like how to make a kitchen stove from clay.
But there is one thing that takes his mind off those horrors: football.
South Sudan Government Warns Protestors Will Face Violence.
When I play football, I forget about the past because it keeps my mind occupied. Though they have found safety, young refugees are struggling to move forward with their lives. They have few educational or job opportunities, and many lack role models and social support, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and disease.
Mike Marchar, now 22, says football takes his mind off the past.
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It has also introduced him to new friends and information about making healthy choices. These efforts — which include sports and drama programmes — not only provide welcome entertainment, but also introduce critical information about their rights and their bodies, helping them make informed decisions about their health and well-being.
Marchar, who is now Like Mr. Marchar, he finds solace in sports, but his game of choice is basketball.