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College of the Atlantic

Left, Right, and Future: Alternative Political Philosophies


Winter-2006

Lombe Simon James Lojogo

***Sudan: Partition or Unity?***

Sudan is the largest and one of the most demographically and geographically

diverse countries on the African continent. Its area extends to 2.5 million square

kilometers, almost one forth of the United States of America. It shares borders with

Libya, Egypt and the red sea in the north, Ethiopia and Eritrea in the east, Kenya and

Uganda in the South, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African republic and

Chad in the west. It is a country that is naturally blessed with a spectrum of physical

relief features; it is not only a home to deserts, rivers, mountain ranges, swamps and

rain forests but also to a variety of fauna and flora that are native of the distinct climatic

zones and relief features. Due to its strategic location, variety of climates and relief

features has made Sudan a recipient to migrations of many people of different ethnic

origins. According to the CIA fact book (July 2005), Sudan’s population stands at

40,187,486. Anthropologists and social scientists had identified more than a hundred

languages and dialects that are used by the Sudanese. This encompassed more than

fifty ethnic groups and six hundred tribes, making Sudan one of the most culturally

diverse countries in the world.


Economically speaking, Sudan is an Agriculture dependent country: Based on

the fertile soils and ample rainfall of the southern and some central parts of the country,

agriculture (Crops, fishery, forestry and livestock) accounts up to more than 85 percent

of employment and contributing to 39% of the country’s GDP (CIA World Fact Book).

Manufacturing and mining industries also play a big role in the Sudanese economy.

Mineral deposits (especially Oil and gold) are have been discovered in various parts of

the country and the country’s potential to produce and export Hydro Electric Power (on

the river Nile) is outstanding. However, despite being the largest country in Africa and

having considerable natural resources, Sudan is among the poorest countries in the

world due to the complexities of the country’s recurring political upheavals especially

after independence from Anglo Egyptian rule.

Sudan was said to be a collection of small independent kingdoms before the

invasion by the Egyptian Turks who were searching for gold and slaves according to

Nation’s Encyclopedia. Although the invaders claimed most of Sudan during the 19th

centaury, they were only able to conquer and unify the northern portion of the country

through Islam, while the southern parts remained an area of fragmented tribes who

were frequently attacked by slave raiders. This marked the beginning of the issues of

identity between the North and South Sudan. ‘Throughout the rest of the nineteenth

centaury, North Sudan represented slavery and exploitation in the collective memories

of Southern Sudanese’ (Musa A. Murawih, The civil war in southern Sudan, 2001). The

identity ridge dividing the South and the north of the country grew wider and wider

during the Anglo-Egyptian rule in Sudan. British authorities treated the two parts as
separate regions. As the British consolidated their position in the south, the south was

detached from the rest of the country and annexed it to the other British colonies in East

Africa; Kenya and Uganda. Eventually Christianity and a British mode of education were

introduced. Northern Sudanese were bared from trading in the south and the spread of

Islam was also discouraged. Later, On the other hand, the north, which already shared

a common history with Egypt, was open for political change, trade and intermarriage,

leading to the wide spread of Islam in the region.

When Sudan gained independence from British and Egyptian rule in 1956,

economic, religious and cultural differences between the south and the north had

become clearer. However, on leaving, the British and Egyptian officials claimed that the

South and the North be administered as one country. Despite its good intentions, this

attempt led to the abolition of the previous restrictions in religion and trade. Northern

elites were instituted as administrators and civil servants in the south and Arabic was

declared as the official administrative language. This gave the southerners the

impression that British colonialism was not over, but replaced with yet another type of

colonialism. This fear sparked the first Sudanese civil war, which was aimed at

establishing an autonomous South. The war stated in 1955 until the promising Addis-

Ababa peace agreement was signed in 1972. This agreement illuminates the hearts of

the southern Sudanese with peace and hope when an autonomous regional

government was highlighted. The two armies were integrated. However, in 1983, the

Sudanese government under the leadership of Jaffar Nimeiri embarked on a massive

islamization campaign; Islamic law was incorporated in the penal code. Southerners,
and other Non-Moslems were also subjected to this law. This coupled with the failure of

the Addis Ababa agreement of 1972 to yield fruits and the unequal distribution of

economic development angered the southerners causing the second post-

independence civil war in the Sudan immediately in the same year. Tired of destruction

of lives and property during 21 years, the Sudanese government and the Sudan

people’s liberation Army/movement (the main rebel group fighting the Sudanese

government) signed yet another peace agreement calling for a united Sudan.

Now that peace (though not completely) had been established, the main

question that remains is the involvement of the religion in the politics and economy of

the county. In the case of Sudan, the two principal regions namely North and South are

historically and religiously distinct: The north which makes more than 60% of the

country’s population is mostly Islamic, while the south is characterized by mostly

Christian and animist groups. These religious identities of Sudan, though they might

share the some good intentions for the people of Sudan, have polarized and conflicting

views on the involvement of religion on politics.

Moslems for example, believe that the involvement of Islam in politics is very

essential for the wellbeing of the country. ‘Islam has one universal and integrated theory

which covers the universe and life and humanity, a theory in which are integrated all the

different questions; in this Islam sums up all its beliefs, its laws and statues and its

modes of worship and of work’ (Sayyid Qutb, Social Justice In Islam, New York, 2000).

This suggests that Islam is based on the acceptance of the supremacy of Allah in that
His laws are ultimate and his wisdom is infinite. Therefore to an Islamic Nation, The

Koran being the word of God is infallible and answers every question; it is not only its

constitution but also a penal code from which all laws are derived. On the contrary,

Christianity teaches that matters of faith should be kept distinct from those of the state.

As the famous saying of Jesus goes; give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to

God what belongs to God.

These two views are both representative of the Northern and southern Sudanese

people respectively. Although the media, (especially the western media) describe the

conflicts in the Sudan as being purely religious or a war between the Christian and

animist south and the Moslem north, it should be noted that there is more to this than

meets the eye. Southern Sudanese rebels are clearly motivated by more than the desire

for religious freedom, even more fundamentally they are seeking the right to determine

the form of government under which they will live and then go to govern them selves

(Kate Almquist, Religion and politics in Sudan, World Vision 1997) This indicates the

unwillingness of the southern Sudanese to be governed by laws that limit their freedom.

In ‘to perpetual peace,’ Immanuel Kant defines ‘freedom as a privilege not to obey any

external laws except those to which one has been able to give one’s consent. From this

definition, one will agree that the southern Sudanese were right to revolt against or

disobey the Islamic law, which is not part of their belief.

However, arguing on the Islamic point of view that the legitimacy of any power or

institution is mainly derived from people’s acceptance of the word of God, and then, the
laws that govern the nation’s economics, politics and the conduct of every citizen of the

nation should be in accordance with the will of Allah. Thus justifying the disastrous

attempt by the Sudanese government to impose Islamic law on the whole country

including the nearly forty percent on their fellow-citizens who are not Moslems.

As demonstrated by history, forging a united Sudan has always and will always

tend to strengthen the controversy between these factious points of views; the end

result is a complete disorder and suffrage. The World Vision (a Non governmental

organization that has been working in Sudan since 1972) estimates that, more than 2

million Sudanese directly or indirectly lost their lives in during the second civil war alone,

while the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that, more

than 4 million people are either displaced internally or fled to neighboring countries.

While the displaced have to survive on little or no access to the basic necessities like

clean water, food, healthcare and education, the fighting armies are busy spending the

nation’s wealth on more weapons to cause more destruction to the lives and property of

the people of Sudan. Where does the future of this country hold? How long shall we

continue to watch this country go in to ruins? How can the people of the Sudan decide

on the discourse of their future?

Today and in history, Sudan is and has always been practically governed as two

separate nations; a country with two types of educational institutions, two different

administrative languages, two distinct ways of governance, two different levels of

economic development, different foreign policies and international relations, two major
identities, and almost every aspect of the country has two distinct features; one that

reflects the views of the North and another that is characteristic of the South. Peace

should have been possible if the two sides would agree to a constitution that guarantees

the rights of every citizen regardless of race or religion. Nonetheless, such a constitution

is difficult if not, impossible to achieve especially keeping in mind the degree of polarity

in believes and freedoms. Although they have not been able to completely solve the

problem of religious antagonism, British India in 1947 and the former Yugoslavia in the

1990s have some lessons from which Sudanese can learn. Creating smaller,

independent nation states could prove to be a better solution. I would therefore

advocate for partition and autonomy in the name of peace other than subordination and

oppression.

‘Press for autonomy, and embrace peace and equality for all’

This was a paper written for a political Philosophy class, 2006. The Author can be

reached by email on slombe@gmail.com.