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State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010 - Sudan

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 1 July 2010
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010 - Sudan, 1 July 2010, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Despite the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended the two-decades-long civil war between North and South Sudan, stable peace in the country remains elusive. Sudan has failed to heed calls to address issues of identity and participation – on both a political and economic level – concerning land rights, justice and non-discrimination. A December 2009 ICG report said, 'The failure to foster democratic transformation in the North has also undermined the chances for political settlement in Darfur and exacerbated tensions in other parts of the country.'

On 4 March 2009, the pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar El Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. He was the first head of state to be so charged by the ICC. In response, the government of Sudan immediately revoked the permits of 13 international humanitarian aid organizations and closed down three national organizations. The closures came without prior notice and the government did not allow a transition period in order to ensure continuity of supply of emergency aid in Darfur and other parts of Sudan.

Violence against minorities, which began in Kordofan in 2007, continued in 2009. In February, local members of the Popular Defence Force (PDF), aligned with the governing National Congress Party (NCP), threatened to kill a local Presbyterian Church leader, according to the UN. In March, PDF members interrupted a church service and threatened further destruction after breaking the cross on the church's roof, USCIRF said. In the same month, a Catholic church in Shatt Dammam and an Episcopal church in Shatt Mazarik were targets of arson attacks. According to USCIRF, church leaders reported to the UN that the crimes were not investigated by Kadugli police. At the end of the month, following fighting between the PDF and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), the Southern Kordofan State Legislative Council held a special session to address the mounting religious and ethnic tensions in the area.

In Southern Sudan, inter-tribal conflict in Jonglei and Warrap states claimed more than 300 lives. A complex mix of factors, including access to cattle grazing, which nomadic communities must have to survive, as well as cattle raiding and mutual suspicion between ethnic groups and political groupings, saw clashes between Bari and Mundari communities in April.

The Abyei dispute over natural resource sharing in central Sudan displaced over 50,000 people in 2008, when fighting broke out between the Sudanese army and SPLA forces. Following this the NCP and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement agreed to accept as final and binding a ruling by an arbitral tribunal in The Hague. The decision of the International Arbitral Tribunal on Abyei was announced in July 2009, placing the Hellig oil field in particular outside the Abyei area. International observers said the implementation of the ruling would provide a 'litmus test' of the will of both sides to implement the CPA. Some believe that if key elements are not properly implemented, and the international community does not help to ensure this, Sudan risks a return to all out civil war.

Religious minorities

In the north, all Christians and followers of other traditional religions are subject to Sharia law. Christians continue to suffer discrimination from government permissions departments concerning the right to build places of worship. Conversion from Islam is a crime punishable by death. Life for converts to Christianity from Islam is made so difficult that they often flee Sudan, USCIRF said.

Public order laws in Sudan, inspired by strict interpretation of Sharia, impacted on women. According to the Strategic Initiative on Women in the Horn of Africa (SIWHA), a regional women's rights NGO, these laws impose 'severe penalties for behavior which does not cause loss or damage to other persons' property or life; behaviour which would be permissible in most states in Africa'. While the ACHPR in Curtis Francis Doebbler v. Sudan indicted Sudan for its Criminal Code, which sanctioned public lashings of women in order to secure chastity by limiting public contact of the two sexes, and ordered the state to review the law, by 2009 Sudan had done nothing to ensure that its laws complied with the African Charter. In two high-profile cases, Lubna Hussein, a journalist attached to the UN in Khartoum, was convicted of the crime of 'indecent or immoral dress' when she wore a pair of trousers, an outfit which is worn daily by women across African cities. For this, she was fined £200. Although the Sudanese government (in its third periodic report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) claimed to have abolished Public Order Courts in 2007, in fact this authority sentenced Lubna to caning.

In November 2009, a 16-year-old South Sudanese Christian girl, Silva Kashif, was sentenced under the same decency law to be lashed 50 times for wearing a mini-skirt. In media interviews the girl said the skirt came below the knee. Such laws affect non-Muslims as well and serve to increase the religious polarization between the various Sudanese regions.


The situation in Darfur deteriorated further in early 2009. Attacks on villages and against the UN-African Union joint Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), led to further displacements in the troubled region. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, an NGO, reported that the total number of IDPs in Darfur was 2.7 million in January 2009. It said that from January to March a further 65,000 people were displaced. Aid efforts and strategies to tackle the difficult conditions many face are being affected, and this is compounded by the ongoing threats to peoples' safety, which, in turn, leads to waves of displacement, the report said.

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