Throughout the vicious cycle of dictatorships and civil wars that has characterized its post-independence history, Sudan has presented a classic case of religious majoritarian authoritarianism. The country’s northern Muslim elites have consistently argued that the Muslim majority has an inherent democratic right to establish an “Islamic” state governed by religiously inspired laws and norms. Since the early days of independence, and particularly since Islamists assumed power in 1989, this Islamic majoritarianism has manifested itself in a wide array of constitutional and legal pronouncements, as well as political practices, that entrench Islam in Sudan’s constitutional, political, and legal systems. Such persistent attempts to enforce an Islamic identity on the entire country have left its mostly southern religious minorities alienated and provoked numerous rebellions and secessionist movement over the past fifty years.
This Note argues that these formulations of Islamic federalism fall short of reversing the course of majoritarian tyranny in Sudan. This conclusion is of grave consequence given that the Machakos-stipulated six-year transitional period before a southern vote on self-determination—effectively the last chance for a united Sudan—will be under a variant of Islamic federalism. This formulation may render the southern vote for secession a foregone conclusion. The central aim of this Note is to explore the viability of federalism within an Islamic framework as an adequate response to majoritarian tyranny against non-Muslims in Sudan. Although there has been extensive scholarship on the role of religion in Sudanese politics, rarely has the issue been analyzed through the lens of majoritarian tyranny.