Introduction to Part One
DOI link for Introduction to Part One
Introduction to Part One book
A paradox surrounds the way customary law is viewed in Southern Sudan. The educated, modernized elite largely see customary law as backward and incapable of addressing the needs of a rapidly changing and modernizing society. Yet in the context of the civil war that has raged intermittently for half a century between the dominant Arab-Muslim North and the subordinated South – where the overwhelming majority adhere to traditional beliefs or are converts to Christianity – customary law is seen as an integral component of the identity the South has been defending against Arabization and Islamization from the North. Moreover, the reality is that most of the people in both the North and the South – estimated at more than 80 percent – are governed by customary law. Simultaneously, then, customary law is seen as something to be discouraged and eventually done away with, yet also something to be preserved, promoted and developed. In the context of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that was
concluded between the government of Sudan and the Southern-based Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and Army (SPLM/A) on January 9, 2005, the revivalist perspective on customary law appears to be heightened. Customary law is being projected not only as a central element of the Southern identity for which the people fought, but as an important source of legislation, constitutionalism and the rule of law for the government of Southern Sudan. Although the shortcomings of customary law are recognized, the general tendency is to idealize the cultural values behind it even as a basis for promoting and realizing the principles of the universal human rights regime. There is, however, a gap between the positive rhetoric and practical measures for making eﬀective use of customary law as postulated. Rather than being an unbridgeable gap, this dilemma is presenting the leadership and those responsible for the legal system with the challenge of turning the aspirations into practical programs and strategies. Following this introduction, Section 2 of Part One relates the political his-
tory of Sudan leading up to the CPA, looking at how a well-functioning legal system bequeathed by the British has fallen into disarray and explaining how customary law has become a central part of the clash of identities between the Islamic North and African South that fueled the war.