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The residents of South Sudan have voted almost unanimously in favor of secession. President Omar Bashir has said that he would react to the new country’s creation by modifying Sudan’s constitution so that Sharia is the only law of the land and Arabic the only language. The U.S. has a potential new ally in South Sudan, but the Bashir regime is now more radicalized and will try to undermine its neighbors with the help of Islamist allies.
Faith McDonnell, the Director of Religious Liberty Programs and Church Alliance for a New Sudan at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, told FrontPage that South Sudan will be a pro-Western secular democracy with religious freedom.
“South Sudan’s independence means that a people who fought against jihad and forced Islamization/Arabization have won. They have rolled back the plan to impose Sharia, they have refused to be dhimmis, at great coast,” McDonnell said.
President Bashir says that his country will now be based strictly on Sharia law, a move intended to appease the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamic forces inside his country that have turned on him. His former ally, Hasan al-Turabi, was arrested shortly following the referendum after he said the government could be overthrown as has just happened in Tunisia. An estimated 300 supporters of al-Turabi protested his arrest and were dispersed by the security forces.
The internal opposition that the Bashir regime faces is forcing it to take an aggressive stance. A successful South Sudan will inspire the opposition that exists throughout the country, especially the youth who “hate the regime and want freedom and democracy,” McDonnell said. The Sudanese regime should be expected to undermine its new neighbor through the use of non-state actors and possibly direct confrontation.
Bashir has already said war would erupt if the tribes of the oil-rich Abyei Province declared they are joining the South. The province’s vote on whether to become part of the new country has been delayed because of disputes over voter eligibility and those disputes could result in fighting. The Bashir regime is also unlikely to allow the crucial province to leave. It has also warned of war if South Sudan harbors militants fighting in Darfur, setting up a possible pretext for confrontation.
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