February 5, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, today said that after the South becomes an independent state, as expected next July, the North will have finally determined its identity.
- Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir holds up prayer beads as a gesture to supporters during a rally in northern Khartoum February 5, 2011 (Reuters)
Speaking at a rally attended by leaders and members of Sufi sects, Bashir said that the endorsement of Islamic Sharia’a law application in the North was incorporated in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the dominant National Congress Party (NCP) and Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM).
Southerners overwhelmingly voted to declare independence in the referendum conducted in January, according to early results, in a vote promised by the CPA which ended more than two decades of civil war.
The Sudanese leader dismissed allegations that the NCP’s insistence on Sharia’a law caused the Southerners to pick separation over unity. The SPLM has demanded an abrogation of Sharia’a law if there was to be any hope that self-determination vote will come in favor of unity.
Bashir said that this claim is a "lie" made by those who want to drop the NCP and Sharia’a law altogether adding that 98% of the North’s population are Muslims. As such they are obligated to follow God’s orders with regards to governing in accordance with Sharia’a.
"Ninety-eight percent of the people in north Sudan are Muslims... Islam is the official religion of the state, and the state will govern by Sharia’a, and this is the basis on which we are going to build a new state" he said.
Opposition parties have said that the NCP’s emphasis on Islamic Sharia’a after secession is a prelude to a "police state" used to crush any dissent. They pointed out that incidents of public lashing of women, including one that was leaked in YouTube late last year, have undermined the country’s image internationally.
But Bashir defended the flogging of the YouTube woman and blocked an investigation into it which was initiated by the country’s judiciary.
The Sudanese president also, in what appears to be an implicit reflection on revolts in Tunisia and neighboring Egypt, promised freedom to Sudanese citizens but warned that he will not allow chaos.
"We open the door of freedom, We have nothing to fear from freedom according to the constitutional law, and that freedom is offered to everyone," Bashir said.
"Anybody who wants to make chaos, we will deal with him according to the law. Our doors and our hearts and our hands are open without fear" he added.
He reminded the crowd that the NCP won the support of most northerners in last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
"The NCP has a mandate but we open the door for everybody who wants to participate," Bashir told the crowd in an apparent reference to northern opposition parties, some of whom have recently called for protests and toppling the regime.
A number of short-lived and small protests broke out in different parts of the North but were dealt with swiftly by riot police who used tear gas and batons.
Facebook pages and other social networking websites said the protests were inspired by the recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Some demonstrations that took place were in response to government’s decision to remove subsidies on sugar and petroleum products and a number of other measures which will likely increase the inflationary pressures.
But Bashir defended the recent economic decisions saying that they aim to assist low-income families.
"There are direct and indirect subsidies. We have removed some indirect subsidies to increase direct subsidies to the poor people who need them."
He also expressed optimism that losing the revenue from oilfields in the South will be compensated for by increasing oil discoveries in the North and gold mines.