UChristian in the Sudanese Sovereign Council. This appointment was considered, in August 2019, at the start of the transition supposed to lead this former military-Islamist dictatorship towards democracy, as a pledge of openness. Two years later, the maintenance of the Coptic Raja Nicola, after the coup of October 25, is debated. Beyond her confession, this magistrate is indeed the only civilian, out of the five included in this mixed council, to have remained in office. For good reason, his colleagues were still in the regime’s jails, during its unilateral recomposition by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane on November 11 – they have since been released.
On Sudanese social networks, cartoons of the sixty-year-old have emerged, wearing a cap. Many Sudanese Copts further claimed that this choice did not represent them. “It sends a negative message to all those who support democracy on the streets and abroad. It’s a shame to see a Christian condone the military coup, ”summarizes Coptic Nasri Morgos, who chairs an association of pharmacists in Khartoum.
A mistaken comparison with Egypt
“The Coptic Church of Egypt supported the military coup in 2013 as did many citizens, because the political situation is completely different there with a single army, a police force and a single ‘ethnicity’. In Sudan, on the contrary, there are many peoples and more than five armies or militias … Unfortunately, the Christian Copts of Sudan are a little lost and think that if they do not line up behind the military in Khartoum, they are betraying the support. from the Church to the Egyptian army. This comparison turns out to be totally erroneous but many Christian Copts fall into this trap ”, details Mina Abdel-Maseeh, an evangelical of Coptic origin who prefers himself to testify under a pseudonym.
The Copts and other Christians, however, took part in the revolution of December 2018. “We were in front of the army headquarters and we were protecting our Muslim brothers during prayer,” recalls Mina Abdel-Maseeh, referring to the sit -in demanding the handing over of power to civilians after the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir and which will be finally dismantled in blood on June 3, 2019. Before adding: “For the first time, as Christians, we have felt Sudanese and no longer members of a separate group within the Sudanese community. This is why we do not support the choice of Raja Nicola because the fact that she stayed means that she endorses the coup. What we do not accept. “
An ally for religious minorities
Other Copts, however opposed to the putsch, understand, them, the decision of the magistrate. “If she hadn’t accepted, who would have replaced her?” Someone from the previous regime or someone who agrees 100% with Burhane? »Asks Hani Fayiz. This boss of a cafeteria in Omdurman, a town close to Khartoum, was himself persecuted by Bashir’s men. “For 30 years, we haven’t been able to build a single church. Since Raja Nicola sits on the Sovereign Council, she has helped us get permission to build a new church in Omdurman. She also took over a Coptic school in Port Sudan [dans l’est du pays] and allowed the restitution of land, money and Coptic, Evangelical or Catholic clubs confiscated under the old regime, ”he lists. This father specifies that the former judge also participated in the reconstruction of Koranic schools after the floods.
“We need her to represent us during the drafting of the future Constitution, underlines Joseph Girgis, another Sudanese Ccopte. Raja Nicola has the necessary experience and qualifications to lay down the legal frameworks to protect the rights of minorities and in particular religious minorities. When we have someone like her to represent us, we must continue to support her and not ask for her withdrawal, ”continues this employee of a sugar company.
Potential links with the old regime
Hani Fayiz and Joseph Girgis deny any pressure on Raja Nicola as she comes from a middle class family with no problem with justice or major financial interests. Elshareef Ali Mohammed, lawyer for the Sudanese Human Rights Initiative NGO, in the process of writing a thesis on religious freedom in Sudan, is more nuanced. “She held high positions in the Ministry of Justice under the old regime and therefore maintains a certain proximity with the National Congress Party of Bashir. Over the past two years, it has defended the interests of the military more than those of civilians, ”he accuses.
This lawyer also regrets his lack of commitment to religious freedom and the favoritism granted to Copts who nevertheless represent, according to him, only 5% of Sudanese Christians. “Raja Nicola is working for her own benefit but she miscalculated. She gave legitimacy to the putschists by agreeing to be part of this new council. However, the army has no ethics. Once they restore total power, the military will push it aside. She is not important to them, it is only a personality that they use to legitimize their coup, ”insists Elshareef Ali Mohammed.
Repression of protests continues
Her analysis joins that of Ekhlas Abdelmahmoud, a journalism professor who came, like tens of thousands of citizens, to demonstrate on November 30 in front of the Republican palace in Khartoum. With the difference that the latter does not criticize the choice of Raja Nicola, but that of the Prime Minister, Abdallah Hamdok, who concluded, on November 21, an agreement with the putschist general. “He probably accepted this document to prevent young people from continuing to be killed. We reproach him, however, for having signed it because we know that the soldiers put pressure on him while the street and the political parties reject this text. As long as the army remains in power, justice will not be applied in Sudan, ”says the young woman with her face covered by a niqab.
The police have, once again, violently repressed the peaceful processions of this Wednesday, leaving nearly 100 wounded, including a nose and a hand torn off. The Sudanese Medical Committee ensures that the police attacked several hospitals and arrested an injured person who was waiting to be treated. In the morning of the same day, this pro-democracy union announced that a new victim had succumbed to his injuries, bringing the death toll to 43 since the coup.