President Salva Kiir of South Sudan accused Sudan’s National Congress Party (NCP)’s decision to impose Sharia law on the Christian South, as the reason why they demanded or independence in 2011.
In a public address in Yei the President said, ” The Sudanese government insisted on the implementation of the Islamic Shariah law in the country, which forced us to separate. We would have remained in one Sudan,” the president explained.
“We would have faced difficulties in the power sharing, but when they refused to drop the Islamic law, we were given the option to break away and create our own country,” he continued. President Kiir further accused Sudan of failing to convince people in what is now South Sudan to stay united.
Khalid al-Mubarak, media counsellor at the Sudanese embassy in London, disagreed strong with the President’s claim. In an interview with IBTimes UK, said secularism was used “as a pretext” for independence.
“Christians were exempted from Islamic law, and that is still the case in the Sudan after secession,” he insisted. “Furthermore all the opposition including the Umma party [Islamic party] and the Communist party agreed, with Western pressure, to the right of self-determination for Southern Sudan in their Asmara conference in 1995. That led to the referendum that was followed by secession in 2011.”
He argued that Sudan’s National Congress Party ruled in a coalition and therefore was not Sudan’s only ruling party.
He added, “The Americans have admitted and even boasted that they have engineered Sudan ‘s secession. In their feverish haste to do so they overlooked many hazards that have now come home to roost.”
South Sudan is still drenched in internal ethnic conflicts and these are influenced to a considerable degree by Sudan since 2013. The main conflict escalated when Kiir, of the Dinka ethnic group, fired his deputy and rebel leader Riek Machar from his cabinet. Since then Kiir and Machar have agreed on several peace deals – the last of which was signed in August 2015 – but have failed to control their troops, who have broken every ceasefire since 2014.
Ethnic-related violence targeting Dinka and Nuer has killed an estimated 50,000 people amid allegations of crimes against humanity committed by both sides, including rape, torture and the use of child soldiers. Millions are displaced and are facing severe food shortages due to a man-made famine. Kiir has often accused Sudan of providing logistics and weapons to Machar’s rebels, something Khartoum denies.
In turn, Sudan accuses its neighbour of hosting Darfuri rebels and members of the SPLM-North (SPLM-N) banned political party, currently engaged in an armed conflict against Sudanese troops in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.