Sudan’s President Warns Against Secession

Ominous indicators out of Khartoum today as the country’s president, an indicted war criminal, warned that should Southerners vote for secession in January 9th’s long-awaited referendum, those Southerners residing in the North will be subject to the strict enforcement of Sharia law.

As the Washington Times reported today, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says that if the South secedes next month, he will ammend the Constitution so Islam becomes the official religion and Sharia becomes the official law of Northern Sudan.

Responding to criticism stemming from a recently circulated video of a woman being flogged for a violation of Sharia law, Bashir defended the police action. According to the Times’ story:

“If she is lashed according to shariah law, there is no investigation. Why are some people ashamed? This is shariah,” Mr. Bashir said.

Again, this is an ominous indicator. The suggestion seems to be that, should Southerners exercise a right, mutually agreed upon in 2005 by representatives of both the North and South, to vote for independence, Bashir may try to take it out on Southerners who are living in Sudan’s mostly Muslim North. Many of these Southerners-residing-in-the-North, many of whom are Christians and comprise approximately four million people, were driven North during the course of two civil wars. In both of these wars, the Northern government’s strategy, according to prominent human rights advocate and escaped slave Simon Deng, was to torch villages and drive Southern Christians and animists to Northern cities where they would become helpless refugees and convert to Islam in order to receive food aid.

It will be terrible indeed if Bashir reacts to Southern will towards independence by taking out his anger on Christians and animists who happen to be living in the North.

The world human rights community must focus here and be alert to abuses. Unfortunately, as is typically the case in hard-line Muslim regions, leaders are not subject to the same scrutiny as, say, American or Israeli leaders are. Because the leaders of hard-line Muslim regimes do not allow for the existence of a free press, and because they employ intimidation, evidence of abuse is hard to document. That is no accident – that is the way these regimes want it. Therefore, any abuse or questionable tactic employed by Western leaders is scrutinized. But Muslim leaders all too often get a pass. However, it is vital that anyone with the means to do so empower Sudan’s Christians and others interested in a fair and lawful vote to document any abuses that might transpire. Let’s keep our eyes on Sudan.

This entry was written by and posted on December 20, 2010 at 7:20 pm and filed under Blog.