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Key findings
  • A majority (55%) of Sudanese say the government should never violate human rights, even to ensure peace and security. But a substantial minority (41%) say suspected terrorists should be dealt with “in any way necessary” – a view that has aboveaverage support in the violence-torn regions of Darfur (50%) and Kurdufan (48%).
  • The view that human-rights violations are acceptable in the pursuit of peace and security is especially common among Sudanese who are wealthy, who have only a primary-school education, who are older, or who live in rural areas.
  • Respondents who fear political violence or intimidation “somewhat” or “a lot” are more accepting of rights violations in pursuit of peace and security (47%) than those who fear violence and intimidation only “a little” or “not at all” (38%).
  • Compared to other Africans, Sudanese are more likely to prioritize a government that “can get things done” over one that is accountable to its citizens. Respondents who share this preference for efficiency over accountability are more accepting of human-rights violations as a price for peace and security.

Post-independence, many states in Africa faced a plethora of challenges, from poverty and ethnic cleavages emphasized by former colonizers to corrupt political elites and nonfunctioning institutions. In numerous cases, this mixture resulted in civil war or violence, further weakening the state. In Sudan, peace has been the exception since independence in 1955: Two civil wars (1955-1972 and 1983-2005), conflict in Darfur since 2003, and violence surrounding the struggle for independence of South Sudan have claimed tens of thousands of lives and left many more destitute or forced to flee (Berry, 2015; Ahmad, 2010).

Against this background of conflict and violence, this dispatch examines Sudanese attitudes regarding possible trade-offs between citizens’ human rights and the pursuit of peace and security.

Afrobarometer survey findings show that for a majority of Sudanese, government efforts to ensure peace and security do not justify violations of individual human rights. But a substantial minority (41%) disagree. This willingness to trade human rights for a more effective fight against insecurity is most common in the conflict regions of Darfur and Kurdufan, as well as among citizens who fear political violence and intimidation and who prioritize government efficiency over accountability.

Thomas Isbell

Post-doctoral research fellow and research assistant at Afrobarometer