South Sudan’s blurring line between state and religion

For idealists, nothing else may be the clear indicator of loss of morality more than practicing the same things people consistently fought against over decades.

But to the realists, including me, that’s not anything to worry about.

A lot of lives have been lost in wars that partly sought to disentangle the Sudanese state from the grips of religion, particularly Islam. Fortunately, we ended up with our own state.

Surprisingly, we are fusing, once again, the state together with religion – again Islam.

For many years now, my President – my good President who I can’t criticize – has been enjoying his breakfasts and dinners with Muslims more than he would do with people of other faiths. He would donate to Muslims money, send them to Mecca for pilgrimage annually, accord them free airtime on the state television, and is now intervening on lands claimed by Muslims.

What beats my understanding is this blurring of the line between state and religion to the extent that Muslims will not have to follow lawful procedures to claim their allegedly grabbed land. In other words, they are becoming the state, moreover a state that is above the law.

I am not making this up, as one old researcher would always say. It is all in the press:

“President Salva Kiir has directed the Minister of National Security to recover Muslim properties that were grabbed by individuals in Juba. Speaking during Ramadhan breakfast with the Muslim community in Juba on Monday, President Kiir told the Muslim community that he will sit with the Minister of National Security to personally oversee the retrieval of the properties,” the Dawn newspaper reported on June 13, 2018.

In case you still want to doubt that newspaper report, this is the take by Eye Radio on the same:

President Salva Kiir has vowed to ensure that the Islamic Council is given back its grabbed pieces of land. The Muslim community has been complaining about its properties, especially in Juba town, Malakia, Konyo-konyo. President Kiir – who was addressing Islamic faithfuls during the Iftar in Juba on Monday – ordered security chiefs to address the issue. “I have promise you … the properties of the Muslim community that have been grabbed will be returned to them,” said Kiir. “I am giving orders even if those who are responsible for the implementation are not here, I will get them tomorrow in the office. But I know the minister of national security is here with us.” According to the Islamic Council, some of the pieces of land were grabbed after independence.

I am trying to make sense of how this has been turned into a national security issue. Why can’t Muslims seek redress through institutions by lawful means like providing evidence of ownership in a court of law? I still don’t have the answer.

But I know this is the reality idealists would oppose based on the old and waning principle of “morality.”

I am a realist. So I understand that “things” most often “fall apart” – As Chinua Achebe would say. Also, George Orwell taught me this realism with his perennial novel, The Animal Farm. So I am not worried about the growing link between the state, the rule of no-law, and Islam. it’s the rarity of this link in secular countries all over the world that’s alarming. But may be we are now an Islamic country.

Women dance on the independence day on July 9 2011. Ironically, we are now doing the same things from which we became independent.



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