Governance of cultural diversity in North Sudan: Religious and ethnic dimensions

The discussions among the Sudanese people about cultural diversity have diminished since the separation of July 2011 between the North and the South. The failure of several groups on both sides to manage diversity properly is now a proven fact, and several dialogues on issues like unity within diversity, what it means to be Sudanese and the comprehensive identity have largely come to a halt. Many did not expect the separation happen so easily. It is true that all parties had at some point threatened to secede, but appeals for unity through agreement or subterfuge were still glowing despite the bitterness of armed conflict and flagrant human losses.

Despite their pretended happiness, separatists in the North and South were very shocked by the smoothness and fast pace of the separation and, today, none of them has the answer to the key question of “what comes next?”

In recent years, Sudan has had an inverse relationship between a growing sense of diversity, and a decline in its ability to manage diversity. There is less loyalty and a weaker sense of belonging to the single nation concept; the state that favoured the Arab-Islamic identity succeeded neither in closing the gap nor in containing different cultural groups in the country. The exact opposite has actually happened; regional demands have increased and the centre vs. the periphery notion reached polarisation point. Various groups were farther than ever from integration and, instead, began highlighting their respective distinctiveness and differences, a trend that often led to armed conflict. This is the equation likely to dominate conflict management in the upcoming period, if traditional mind-sets and behaviour patterns that have been the hallmark of this nation since independence do not undergo a radical change

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.