Sudan’s great leap forward could prove short-lived. The African nation’s efforts to breakaway from its intransigeant Islamic past was brought to a disturbing halt this January, when police decided to crackdown on the sale of alcohol, which trade was legalised in July 2020 for non-Muslims, to accommodate those officials, who, despite the change in leadership, remain true to the old regime’s narrative – one burdened by intolerance, sectarianism, and violent religious extremism.
Following decades of the most brutal of political rules Sudan was finally set free in 2019 from its dictator, Omar al Bashir, on the promise that the new leadership would, at last, lay down strong democratic foundations, to then rejoin the international community. Labelled a Terror state by the United States of America for its courting of radical Islamic ideologues, Sudan was set free of its pariah status in December 2020 by the Trump’s administration.
The designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism dates back to the 1990s, when Sudan briefly hosted the Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other wanted militants. The country was also believed to have served as a pipeline for Iran to supply weapons to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
If General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, hailed the move as a “historic decision”, tweeting that delisting Sudan would “contribute to supporting the democratic transition”, it now appears the country is falling back into old radical habits – a trend, which, if left unchecked, could foil the democratic hopes of millions of Sudanese.
Without a clean break from radical Islam, Sudan will never truly transition to the vibrant democracy its people so desperately want and maybe more to the point, deserve to built.
Needless to say that whatever ‘normalisation’ Sudan committed itself to in relation to Israel will mean very little if its judicial authorities are already willing to violate the sanctity of the Constitution to appease its Islamist elite.
The updated rules on alcohol came into play in July 2020 as part of a raft of legal reforms aiming to put Sudan back onto the international community map, a concerted effort to break from the shackles of religious fundamentalism.
Today such efforts are under brutal attack.
Today state officials have de facto sat themselves outside the rule of the law to cater to their religious beliefs and avenge the offenses they feel to have endured by the hands of those they label ‘apostates’- Christians.
If the 2019 transitional constitution of Sudan guarantees freedom of religion and omits reference to Sharia as a source of law, violence against religious minorities, in particular Christians, has spiked up over the past weeks, pointing to an attempt by Islamists to foil the country’s tentative move towards secularism. In September 2020, the interim government established the separation of religion and state.
In December 2020, a Sudanese British businessman who was arrested on trumped up charges: illegally selling alcohol, on diplomatic grounds, now faces 5 years in jail.
In direct violation of the Geneva Convention Sudanese police conducted a raid against a warehouse owned by Brazil’s diplomatic mission on the basis it was tipped by locals of the presence of contrebande. Such attacks against diplomatic missions have long gone unpunished in Sudan, a trend the new government promised would come to an end.
During the raid, several diplomats, were violently dragged into police cars to be then thrown into holding cells as bribes were discussed.
If all diplomats were quickly released, Samuel, whose name we cannot yet reveal, was not so lucky. Scapegoat to a medieval narrative, Samuel faces Islamists’ wrath without hope for recourse.
When the letter of the law can be so easily twisted one wonders how long Sudan’s commitments of normalisation will last. If even the sovereignty of diplomatic missions can so easily be trampled over, what hope is there for true democratic reforms?