New Age Islam
Tue Dec 06 2022, 10:30 PM

Islam and Politics ( 10 Feb 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

South Sudan and the Role of Religion in Politics

By Abdirahman Mohamed Dirye for

The south Sudan turned into a new state in the New Year and there is a great euphoria about it among its people. After a long-drawn battle and sacrifices of lives, their dream has come true.  But let us closely examine what led to the breakup of Africa’s largest: the role of religion in politics in Horn, in particular and in Africa, in general. It is indisputable that SPLM fought tooth and nail to come to where they are today. It was not long ago when the Secretary of State, Madeline Albright met the late John Grang in the jungles of the south Sudan. It was for the first time in history that a ringleader met such a high ranking official from the States; it is also obvious that the US militarily backed them. We all know that south Sudan issue has been pushed further by powerful states.

The Vatican spoke about slavery in Sudan and campaigned against Khartoum in the past.

There are two schools of thought about how south Sudan, the new nation outpaced and outdid its counterparts like Somaliland. The first is that the magnitude of collateral damages sustained by the southerners was extremely enormous, and therefore, required urgent solution. The world asked Khartoum to stop killing and treat its citizens equally but it failed to do so. Moreover, Western powers deceptively convinced Khartoum to sign CPA agreement which gave the south relief interval of six years to remain in united Sudan, and then choose unity or secession. The second is that religion played a vital role in bringing southern issue to the international arena including Vatican, London, and Washington D.C.

The people who believed that religion played a role in politics in today’s world have cited many other classic examples such as East Timor, which is still in the memory of many Muslims. Jakarta was forced to withdraw from East Timor and bring the War Generals who commanded clashes in East Timor to justice. Was the same thing being applied to Khartoum? If they are lucky, they will not have that trouble.

The issue of south Sudan divided the African Union member countries on religious lines -- Uganda, Kenya, and republic of South Africa being on one side, and Libya, Djibouti, and Egypt on the other. Surprisingly, Uganda that is next door to south Sudan, unequivocally took sides with Jubba and hinted if Khartoum tried to derail referendum, they would declare war on Khartoum. However, this camp has valid points to some extent. If the Church did not play a role on this issue, why Somaliland was not allowed to join African Union, at least some sort of legitimacy until Somalia awakes again from its slumber.

There is growing frustration in Somaliland over the status quo. People are skeptical about the fate of Somaliland and whether the western powers will recognize their tiny country. Nonetheless, everyone I spoke in Somaliland thinks that religion primarily took South Sudan out of its ethnic crisis.

We live in a world where Muslims, Christians and Jews are becoming more and more intolerant. The bond that ties various communities together is loosening whereas it was needed now the most.  The notion that democratic countries are secular and thus fair or closer to justice regardless of faith or Tony’s famous statement “We fought for justice” when he arrived in Kosovo after the war was over seems un-saleable today. Imagine the south being a Muslim country like Somaliland. Imagine the south without the oil resource. Will international community ever consider Somaliland, a vibrant democracy in devastated region of Africa? Only time will tell.


Abdirahman Mohamed Dirye is a Somaliland volunteer and activist based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He can be contacted at