Democratic Republic of the Congo
The constitution provides for freedom of religion and prohibits discrimination based on religious belief. Catholics reported violence and harassment toward clergy members in response to their political activism. Armed men dressed in Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) uniforms killed a Catholic priest who ran an activist website documenting ethnic abuse. Two Catholic priests were arrested in connection with a political protest and released several days later. One Protestant minister was arrested after running a civil society workshop on elections and held incommunicado and without charge by the National Intelligence Services (ANR) for a month before being released. There were reports of security forces harassing Muslims for money or property in connection with the government’s pursuit of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a largely Muslim rebel group. Religious organizations became more politically active in advance of upcoming elections, and some parishes and convents reported experiencing threats and intimidation from government security services. Because religious and political issues overlap, it was difficult to categorize some incidents as being based solely on religious identity. Although the government has suspended granting registration permits since 2014, many religious groups operated without government authorization or interference.
During the year, members of the Lega ethnic group attacked Jehovah’s Witnesses in several provinces for reportedly refusing to participate in traditional Kimbilikiti healing practices and initiation rituals. According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the group killed a 60-year-old Jehovah’s Witness woman in October; raped two Jehovah’s Witness women, beat several Jehovah’s Witnesses, destroyed a Jehovah’s Witness worship hall, and robbed and destroyed the homes of three Jehovah’s Witness families in November; and assaulted a Jehovah’s Witness man and kidnapped his son in July. On August 3, a court convicted and sentenced to life in prison Jedidia Mwanga for the 2015 killing of Jehovah’s Witness Kingeleji Mukoso for allegedly refusing to consult a traditional healer. In South Kivu Province in October, the family of a Christian woman killed by a Muslim man in September along with other members of the local Christian community reportedly burned down two mosques.
The U.S. Ambassador and embassy officials met regularly with the government to discuss religious freedom issues, such as government relations with religious organizations. The embassy had similar discussions with religious leaders and human rights organizations and engaged with members of different religious organizations to promote interfaith peacebuilding efforts.
Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom
The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and provides for freedom of religion and the right to worship subject to “compliance with the law, public order, public morality, and the rights of others.” It stipulates the right to religious freedom cannot be abrogated even when the government declares a state of emergency or siege.
The law regulates the establishment and operation of religious groups. According to the law, the government may legally recognize, suspend recognition of, or dissolve religious groups. The government grants tax-exempt status to recognized religious groups. Nonprofit organizations, including religious groups, foreign and domestic, must register with the government to obtain official recognition by submitting a copy of their bylaws and constitution. Religious groups must register only once for the group as a whole, but nonprofit organizations affiliated with a religious group must register separately. Upon submission, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (MOJ) issues a provisional approval and, within six months, a permanent approval or rejection. Unless the ministry specifically rejects the application, the group is considered approved and registered after six months even if the ministry has not issued a final determination. Applications coming from international headquarters of religious organizations must be approved by the presidency after submission through the MOJ. The law requires officially recognized religious groups to operate as nonprofits and respect the general public order. It also permits religious groups to establish places of worship and train clergy. The law prescribes penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment and/or 200,000 Congolese francs (CDF) ($165) for groups which are not properly registered but receive gifts and donations on behalf of a church or religious organization.
The constitution allows public schools to work with religious authorities to provide religious education to students in accordance with students’ religious beliefs, provided the parents request it.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Because religious and political issues overlap, it was difficult to categorize some incidents as being solely based on religious identity.
In March a dozen armed men wearing FARDC uniforms killed Rev. Vincent Machozi, a Catholic priest, at a gathering of tribal and religious leaders in North Kivu. Machozi was a member of the Augustinians of the Assumption religious order and operated a website documenting atrocities committed against ethnic Nande (Yira) people. In October armed assailants shot and killed another Catholic priest, Rev. Joseph Milimbi Nguli, in Lubumbashi. Milimbi had previously preached in favor of respect for presidential term limits and respect for the constitution. Authorities arrested three FARDC soldiers in connection with the killing, but there was no information on their status at year’s end.
Authorities arrested several local imams in Beni territory along with dozens of ADF members following an August 13-14 ADF attack in Luhanga that killed approximately 50 people. Several imams were charged with involvement with the armed militia group. Separately, the government arrested and sentenced one imam to death, which was commuted to life in prison, in an expedited trial for recruiting youth to join “terrorist” groups.
Some religious organizations criticized the government’s failure to hold constitutionally mandated elections during the year and there were reports of retaliatory political intimidation. Two Catholic priests were arrested during antigovernment protests on September 19-20, but were released several days later. The ANR arrested Protestant minister Remy Flame Manguamba on September 15 during a civil society workshop hosted by his church, and held him incommunicado and without charge until he was released on October 17.
Some representatives of the Catholic Church, which publicly urged the government to abide by constitutionally mandated electoral deadlines, stated they were subjected to verbal harassment and government interference based on their political advocacy.
In conjunction with government military operations in North Kivu against the ADF, there were reports that in the Beni and Goma areas the national police and army harassed members of the Muslim community, particularly those dressed in a way that identified them as Muslim. According to reports, this usually involved demanding money or property such as cell phones. Leaders of the Muslim community reported they kept in frequent contact with the government to share information regarding the ADF.
The MOJ has not issued final registration permits for religious groups since 2014, reportedly due to an internal investigation into registration practices resulting in fraud. In the interim, however, groups have been presumed approved and have been permitted to organize, and unregistered domestic religious groups reported they operated unhindered. The MOJ estimated over 2,000 registration applications for both religious and nonreligious NGOs remained pending. Foreign religious groups reported they operated without restriction after receiving registration approval from the government.
Leaders of all major denominations reported their members practiced their faith without interference from the government or local authorities and fully participated in their communities without religious discrimination. Aside from tension over electoral issues, Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, and Kimbanguist religious leaders stated they had a good relationship with the government, and the government continued to rely on religious organizations to provide public services such as education and healthcare throughout the country. According to the Ministry of Education, approximately 72 percent of primary school students and 65 percent of secondary school students attended government-funded schools administered by religious organizations.
Muslim community leaders said the government did not afford them some of the same privileges as larger religious groups. The government continued to deny Muslims the opportunity to organize chaplains to provide services for Muslims in the military, police force, and hospitals, despite a complaint filed the previous year with the president and his cabinet.
One of the civil society positions on the Independent National Electoral Commission continued to be reserved for a member of the clergy.
The constitution requires the separation of state and religion, establishes freedom of religious choice and practice, prohibits religious discrimination, and stipulates the government shall not interfere in the practice of any religion. On October 2, dozens or more were reportedly killed at a religious and cultural festival in Bishoftu. The government’s handling of the highly charged event reportedly resulted in a stampede. The government used the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP) and other measures to restrict organized opposition and anti-government protests, including through the detention and prosecution of Muslims engaged in protests against what the protestors said was continued government interference in religious affairs. On October 9 the government declared a six-month state of emergency. Under a state of emergency, the government limits constitutionally granted freedoms including religious freedom; individuals are prohibited from inducing fear or inflicting conflict during sermons in religious institutions. On December 21, the Federal High Court found 20 supporters of the Muslim Arbitration Committee guilty on charges of participating in a terrorist organization, a crime under the ATP, and for committing or conspiring to commit crimes.
Protestors in the West Arsi area of Oromia region burned down 15 churches and related facilities belonging to Kale Hiwot, Full Gospel, Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and Orthodox churches in attacks carried out in February and confirmed by the independent Ethiopian organization Human Rights Council.
The U.S. Ambassador, Charge d’Affaires, and embassy officials continued to discuss religious freedom with the government and engage with religious groups and faith-based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to promote religious freedom and discuss their role in society. Embassy officials met with members of the Ministry of Federal and Pastoralist Development Affairs (MFPDA) on religious tolerance, peace, and security. They also met with the president of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC), the head of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia, the chairperson of the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia (IRCE), and the head of external relations for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC). Embassy officials attended some of the trials of Muslims and met with members of the Muslim community to discuss their allegations of government interference in religious affairs.
Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom
The constitution requires the separation of state and religion, establishes freedom of religious choice and practice, prohibits religious discrimination, and stipulates the government shall not interfere in the practice of any religion. It permits limitations on religious freedom as prescribed by law in order to protect public safety, education, and morals, and to guarantee the independence of government from religion. The law criminalizes religious “defamation” and incitement of one religious group against another. The law permits sharia courts to adjudicate personal status cases, provided both parties are Muslim and consent to the court’s jurisdiction.
Under the state of emergency, which went into effect on October 8, the government limits constitutionally granted freedoms, including religious freedom, for a period of six months that may be renewed. Individuals are prohibited from inducing fear or inflicting conflict during sermons in religious institutions.
Registration and licensing of religious groups are the mandate of the MFPDA. The MFPDA requires unregistered religious groups to submit a founding document, the national ID cards of its founders, and the permanent address of the religious institution and planned regional branches. The registration process also includes an application letter, information on the board members, meeting minutes, information on the founders, its financial reports, offices, name, and symbol. Religious group applicants must have at least 50 individuals for registration as a church and 15 for a ministry or association to be considered. During the registration process, the government publishes the religious group’s name and logo in a local newspaper and, if there are no objections, registration is granted.
All religious institutions, including the EIASC, are registered by the MFPDA. The EOC, however, is registered in a provision under the civil code passed during the imperial era, which is still in force.
All groups must register with the Directorate of Faith and Religious Affairs at the MFPDA to gain legal standing. Most religious groups are registered by the MFPDA. Religious groups must renew their registration at least every five years; failure to do so could result in a fine.
Registered religious organizations are required to provide annual activity and financial reports. Activity reports must describe evangelical activities and list new members, new pastors ordained, and new buildings opened or built. The Charities and Societies Proclamation prohibits certain charities, societies, and associations, including those associated with faith-based organizations that engage in rights-based advocacy, and prevents civil society organizations from receiving more than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources. Rights-based advocacy includes activities promoting human and democratic rights or equality of nations, nationalities, peoples, genders, and religions; protecting the rights of children or persons with disabilities; advancing conflict resolution or reconciliation; and enhancing the efficiency of the justice system or law enforcement services.
Religious groups undertaking development activities were required to register their development arms as charities with the Charities and Societies Agency and follow legal guidelines.
The constitution prohibits religious instruction in schools, whether public or private. The law permits religious instruction in churches and mosques, and schools may organize clubs based on shared religious values.
Under the constitution the government owns all land and therefore individuals, private businesses, and religious groups must apply to both the regional and local governments for land allocation, including for land to build places of worship, schools, hospitals, and cemeteries. The Charities and Societies Association and the Ministry of Health regulate religious schools and hospitals, which the government may close at any time for not following regulations.
The law prohibits the formation of political parties based on religion.
The government mandates a two-hour break on Fridays for Islamic prayers.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights without reservations.
On October 2, at least 55 were killed at a religious and cultural festival in Bishoftu. The government’s response to the highly charged environment reportedly led to the deadly stampede that resulted in most of the confirmed deaths. The initial cause of the disruption remained unclear, but according to media sources there were sounds of gunfire, teargas, and helicopters overhead. During protests that followed the incident and on social media, many individuals blamed the government for instigating the stampede and for incompetence in securing the gathering, among other accusations. On October 7, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights noted there was a need to investigate what occurred and urged the government allow independent observers access to Oromia and Amhara regions. On October 10, a group of UN human rights experts highlighted the October 2 events and urged the government to allow an international commission of inquiry to investigate the protests and any violence used against protesters since November 2015.
The government used the six-month state of emergency declared on October 9, the ATP, and other measures, to restrict organized opposition and antigovernment protests, including through the detention and prosecution of Muslims engaged in nonviolent protests. The state of emergency, in particular, restricted freedom of speech and media consumption while earlier restrictions prevented the use of social media. There were no new violent protests focused solely on Muslim grievances, but some Muslims participated in larger Oromo protests airing past Muslim grievances. Some Muslim community members stated the government co-opted religious leaders to impose Al-Ahbash, a Sufi religious movement rooted in Lebanon and different from indigenous Islam, on local Islamic religious practice. The government stated in 2015 that it no longer supported the program to impose Al-Ahbash on Islamic religious practice, although reports suggested Al-Ahbash teachings were still disseminated and Friday prayers generally conformed to Al-Ahbash teachings.
Muslim community sources stated there continued to be widespread sentiment in the community that the government exercised excessive influence over the EIASC. Some Muslim community members also reported government interference in religious affairs, including the government’s refusal to allow elections in mosques because women would not be allowed to vote. Muslim groups continued to reject the 2012 EIASC elections for alleged government interference and the lack of new elections since then. There were mostly peaceful protests by Muslims against this perceived interference; however, the number of protests this year sharply declined compared to previous years and were incorporated into demonstrations addressing broader grievances, such as the rights of Oromo people. The state of emergency further discouraged such protests. Muslims in Jemo and Furi areas in Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Chiro, Jimma, and Gondar protested during the celebration of Eid al-Adha on September 12. Protestors showed red cards, crossed their arms above the head and carried placards that read “We Need Freedom!,” “Hear our Voices!,” and “A Government that Refuses to take Criticism, Will not Last long!”
The government continued to take actions regarding the Muslim Arbitration Committee, a group identified with the 2012 protests. In 2015, the Federal High Court found 18 members and supporters of the Muslim Arbitration Committee guilty of terrorism under the ATP and sentenced the individuals to imprisonment ranging from seven to 22 years. Later that year, the government pardoned and released five of those convicted. In early September the government pardoned two arbitration committee leaders (Abubeker Ahmed Mohamed and Kemal Shemsu Siraj), four members (Bedru Hussein, Sheik Seid Ali, Sheik Mekete Muhe, and Mubarek Adem) and three journalists (Yusuf Getachew, Murad Shekur Jemal, and Nuru Turki Nuru). On December 21, the Federal High Court found guilty 20 supporters of the Muslim Arbitration Committee. The defendants were convicted for “participation in a terrorist organization,” a crime under the ATP, and for committing or conspiring to commit crimes. The defendants found guilty included a leading Muslim scholar, Kedir Mohammed, and two radio journalists.
On January 19, the Federal High Court sentenced all 16 defendants in the 2013 Elias Kedir case to seven years in prison under the charge of participation in a terrorist organization, a crime punishable under the ATP. The defendants said they were protesting government interference in Muslim affairs and called for the release of the Muslim Arbitration Committee members through writings in various media and peaceful protests in mosques. Police arrested the defendants in 2013 in Addis Ababa and Wolkite town in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s (SNNPR) Region. On December 16, the Federal Supreme Court reduced the sentences of 12 of the defendants from seven years to three years and four months following the defense’s appeal of the High Court’s original sentences. Authorities also pardoned and released four other defendants in September.
The Federal High Court heard the case of 28 Muslim individuals, 11 of whom were tried in absentia, and found 24 of the defendants guilty of terrorism under the ATP. Some of the defendants told the court they had taken military and political training with Al-Shabaab and worked towards establishing an Islamic state in their country. The court acquitted four individuals of the charges in February. In March the court passed sentences ranging from four-year to 21-year prison terms.
The trial of 14 Muslims charged with the July 2013 killing of Sheikh Nuru in Dessie town continued into its third year. According to media sources, Sheikh Nuru was a follower of Al-Ahbash teachings and defended the government’s policy of imposing the new teachings. The government charged the individuals in November 2013 under the ATP law for “terrorist activity.” At year’s end, the prosecution and defense rested their cases and were awaiting a verdict. One of the 14 defendants reportedly died while in prison.
In November three teenage Christian girls and one young woman were sentenced to one month in prison after distributing a Christian book that allegedly sought to counter widely-circulated writings by a well-known Islamic critic. The four individuals were charged with inciting religious violence in October in Babile. Muslim communities in the area stated the book was an insult to Islam. Four teenagers attacked a local church shortly after the book was distributed; four suspects in the church burning were arrested in October.
The Directorate for Registration of Religious Groups within MFPDA reported it registered 1,600 religious groups and associations as of year’s end.
There were reports of discrimination in registration and land allocation. Members of some religious groups stated the exemption of the EOC and the EIASC from the registration requirement amounted to a double standard between the EOC and EISAC, on the one hand, and other religious groups on the other.
Protestants privately reported unequal treatment by local officials compared to the EOC and the EIASC with regard to religious registration and allocation of land for churches and cemeteries. The MFPDA, which had oversight responsibility for religious affairs, stated the perceived inequities were a result of poor governance at the local level and of zoning regulations governing a property’s existing and proposed communal use.
Some religious groups, mainly Protestant, continued to work through private and unofficial channels to seek the return of property confiscated between 1977 and 1991. Although some property was returned in previous years, there were no reports the government returned any property during the year.
The MFPDA, working with the EIASC and other civil society groups, sponsored workshops and training of religious leaders, elders, and influential community members with the stated intention of addressing the potential for sectarian violence.
The constitution bars the federal and state governments from adopting a state religion, prohibits religious discrimination, and provides for individuals’ freedom to choose, practice, propagate, or change their religion. Human rights groups reported the federal government often failed to prevent, quell, or respond to violence affecting religious groups, particularly in the northeastern and central regions of the country. In November at least nine people were killed in Kano State in clashes between police and members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), the country’s largest Shia group. In July the Kaduna State government released the results of its investigation of the December 2015 clash between the military and the IMN, in which at least 348 IMN members and one soldier died. More than 200 IMN members were awaiting trial as a result of that incident; the government did not charge any members of the army. Human rights groups called for the prosecution of military members responsible. The Kaduna State government banned the IMN. On January 4, a Kano State Upper Sharia Court sentenced cleric Abdulaziz Dauda and nine followers to death for making blasphemous statements against the Prophet Muhammad; the case was under appeal. In January a sharia court in Kano State confirmed the death sentences of an imam and eight others for blasphemy. Also in January a Kano sharia court convicted a Tijaniyah Sufi Muslim cleric and five others of blasphemy, and sentenced them to death. Both cases were on appeal at year’s end. Religious groups reported instances in which neither the state and nor federal governments investigated, prosecuted, or punished those responsible for abuses committed due to religious intolerance, such as the November 3 release of five Muslim men arrested for the June 2 killing of a Christian woman in Kano. Members of regional minority religious groups said some state and local government laws continued to discriminate against them, including by limiting their rights to freedom of expression and assembly and obtaining government employment.
The terrorist organization Boko Haram continued to carry out numerous attacks, committing mass killings and often targeting civilians. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Nigeria Watch estimated activities by Boko Haram resulted in the deaths of 2,900 people, including Boko Haram members, a decrease from the 4,780 deaths recorded in 2015.
There were incidents of killings and other violence, motivated in part by religion, although observers stated there were other contributing factors, including ethnicity, conflict over grazing rights, corruption, and criminality. In April herdsmen killed more than 300 people in the predominantly Christian Agatu community in Benue State. In Kaduna State, suspected Fulani herdsmen killed 40 people in October and 42 people in November. In October Christians reportedly killed 14 Fulani herdsmen in Kaduna State. There were religiously motivated attacks by mobs; one instance led to the deaths of eight Muslims in Zamfara State when Muslim students burned down the home of another Muslim for helping a Christian accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Another mob killed a Christian man in May in Niger State for posting a statement considered blasphemous against Islam. A Christian vendor was also killed in Kano State for preventing a Muslim from praying in front of her shop. Muslim leaders publicly condemned the activities of Boko Haram as un-Islamic.
U.S. embassy and consulate general officials discussed and advocated for religious freedom and tolerance with National Security Advisor Babagana Munguno, Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai, Sultan of Sokoto Sa’ad Abubakar, and President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Supo Ayokunle. Embassy officials encouraged these representatives to address interreligious violence and called for timely legal action against perpetrators of violence. In visits to the country, the U.S. Secretary of State, Deputy Secretary of State, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN, the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, the U.S. Ambassador, and other officials met with President Muhammadu Buhari, state governors, senior federal and state government officials, leaders of religious groups, and NGOs to discuss religious freedom, affirm support for efforts to combat Boko Haram, and review efforts to improve relations between Christians and Muslims.
Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom
The constitution stipulates neither the federal nor the state governments shall establish a state religion and prohibits discrimination on religious grounds. It provides for freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the freedom to change religion and to manifest and propagate religion “in worship, teaching, practice, and observance,” provided these rights are consistent with the interests of defense, public safety, order, morality, or health, and protecting the rights of others. The constitution also states it shall be the duty of the state to encourage interfaith marriages and to promote the formation of associations that cut across religious lines and promote “national integration.” It prohibits political parties that limit membership on the basis of religion or with names that have a religious connotation.
The constitution provides for state-level courts based on common or customary law systems, which have operated in the region for centuries. It specifically recognizes sharia courts of appeal in any states that require it, with jurisdiction over civil proceedings such as marriage, inheritance, and other family matters, where all the parties are Muslims. Sharia courts hear criminal cases in 12 northern states. State laws on sharia criminal courts vary, but at least one state, Zamfara, requires that criminal cases in which all litigants are Muslim be heard in sharia courts. According to state laws, sharia courts may pass sentences based on the sharia penal code, including hudood offenses (serious criminal offenses with punishments prescribed in the Quran) and prescribe punishments, such as caning, amputation, and death by stoning. State laws dictate non-Muslims have the option to try their cases in sharia courts if involved in civil or criminal disputes with Muslims. Common law courts hear the cases of non-Muslims and Muslims (in states where they have the option) who choose not to use sharia courts. Sharia courts do not have the authority to compel participation by non-Muslims. Aggrieved parties can appeal sharia court judgments to three levels of sharia appellate courts. According to the constitution, decisions by the state sharia courts of appeal (the highest level of the sharia courts) theoretically can be appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court, although none has been.
Kano and Zamfara’s state-sanctioned Hisbah Boards regulate Islamic religious affairs and preaching, distribute licenses to imams, and attempt to resolve religious disputes between Muslims in those states. The states of Bauchi, Borno, Katsina, and Yobe maintain state-level Christian and Muslim religious affairs ministries or bureaus with varying mandates and authorities, while many other state governors appoint interfaith special advisers on religious affairs.
Registration of religious groups is required for groups to build places of worship, open bank accounts, receive tax exemptions, or sign contracts. Religious groups planning to build places of worship must register with the Corporate Affairs Commission as an incorporated trustee, which involves submitting an application form, proof of public notice, a copy of the organization’s constitution, a list of trustees, and a fee of 20,000 naira ($66).
Both federal and state governments have the authority to regulate mandatory religious instruction in public schools. The constitution states schools may not require students to receive religious instruction or to participate in or attend any religious ceremony or observance pertaining to any religion other than their own. State officials and many religious leaders have stated students have the right to request a teacher of their own religious beliefs to provide an alternative to any instruction offered in a religion other than their own. The constitution also says no religious community will be prevented from providing religious instruction to students of that community in any place maintained wholly by that community.
Several states have laws requiring licenses for preachers, places of worship, and religious schools of registered religious groups. A Katsina State law establishes a board with the authority to regulate Islamic schools, preachers, and mosques, including issuing permits, suspending operations, and imprisoning or fining violators. The Katsina law stipulates a punishment of one to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to 500,000 naira ($1,600) for operating without a license.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Clashes between police and IMN members resulted in the death of at least nine civilians. According to a Kaduna State report, a late 2015 clash between the army and IMN members resulted in at least 348 IMN members and one soldier dead. The government did not file charges against any soldiers after the incident; approximately 200 IMN members were awaiting trial for conspiracy and homicide. Sharia courts in Kano State confirmed the death sentences of an imam and eight others for blasphemy and sentenced a Tijaniyah Sufi Muslim cleric and five others to death after convicting them of blasphemy. Both cases were on appeal. Human rights groups and religious authorities accused the security forces of abuses and religious suppression when dealing with minority religious groups. Some Christian groups reported a lack of protection by government authorities for churches and Christian communities, especially in the central and northern regions. They reported discrimination in acquiring land permits to build churches and in admission to universities in the north. Muslims living in predominantly Christian states reported discrimination by state governments against such practices as women wearing the hijab. There were continued conflicts between displaced ethnic groups, known as settlers, and longstanding residents or indigenes, which the groups accused the federal government of ignoring. The differences between the two groups were frequently religious as well as ethnic and economic. State governments often granted preferential treatment, for example in access to education and jobs, to indigenes over settlers.
On November 14, Nigerian security forces clashed with members of the IMN who were marching from Kano city to Zaria, resulting in an indeterminate number of deaths and injuries. According to the police, nine people died, including members of the police, while the IMN said 100 of its members were killed and 87 detained. Other reports estimated several dozen dead and well over 100 injured as a result of the violence. Members of the Shia group were embarking on their annual symbolic pilgrimage to Zaria, Kaduna State, to mark the end of the 40-day period of remembrance of the death of Imam Hussein. The violence began after an argument between the police and IMN members. The police stated an IMN member took an officer’s gun, which resulted in other officers opening fire, while the IMN stated the police opened fire without provocation.
On October 7 the government of Kaduna issued an order declaring the IMN unlawful in Kaduna and stating that any IMN member would be prosecuted. According to the text of the order, Governor Nasir el-Rufai reached the decision in the exercise of his constitutional powers to protect “public safety, public order, public morality… [and] the rights and freedoms of all persons” in his state. The order cited the report of the state’s judicial commission of inquiry el-Rufai appointed to investigate the deadly December 2015 confrontation between the Nigerian Army and the IMN in Zaria, Kaduna. In particular, the order referenced the commission’s findings and recommendations that the IMN was not registered and should be “proscribed;” had a history of violence and aggression that culminated in the December 2015 incident; operated like a parallel government in disregard of Nigerian law; continued to hold unauthorized gatherings and processions in public spaces; and constituted “danger to the peace, tranquility, harmonious coexistence and good governance of Kaduna State.”
The commission had issued its report on July 15, which concluded at least 348 IMN members and one soldier died during the December 2015 clash, which began with a roadblock by the IMN. The report also found that the army quickly buried hundreds of IMN members in a mass grave following the attacks. The IMN released a list in January of members it said went missing following the violence. The list included more than 700 people. The commission report found the army used “excessive and disproportionate” force, and recommended the military or the federal government attorney general conduct an independent investigation and prosecute anyone found to have acted unlawfully.
Katsina, Kebbi, Kano, and Jigawa States banned religious processions just prior to the annual Ashura processions, performed by Shia Muslims worldwide in remembrance of the death of Imam Hussein. On October 12, mobs and security forces in a number of northern states attacked Shia participating in the processions, killing at least 15 people. Authorities subsequently arrested hundreds of Shia and charged them with disturbing the peace. The Islamic Human Rights Commission said it echoed the IMN’s statement that the arrests and charges were “an embarrassment to the nation” and called on authorities to release those detained, among whom were women and children, describing them as “prisoners of conscience.”
On December 5, the government of Kaduna State released its White Paper on the Zaria incident of the previous year. The White Paper accepted many of the recommendations of the commission report, including that of proscribing the IMN and investigating and prosecuting army personnel found to have acted unlawfully. The paper also accepted the commission’s position that IMN leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky be held responsible for the actions of IMN members during the incident and for any illegal acts committed by IMN members during the preceding 30 years. The paper declared the IMN “an insurgent group” that challenged state authority and that it should be treated as a threat to the government.
IMN leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife remained in custody without charges at year’s end, although a federal High Court in Abuja ruled on December 2 that the federal government must release both within 45 days. More than 200 imprisoned IMN members awaited trial on charges of conspiracy and culpable homicide. At year’s end, the government had not arrested or charged any soldiers as a result of the incident. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), a semi-independent agency of the federal government, also investigated the incident and recommended the speedy prosecution of IMN members as well as soldiers found culpable of abuses. In its report released on September 21, the NHRC stated the killings by soldiers of IMN members appeared to be wholly unjustified.
In January a Kano State sharia court convicted Tijaniyah Sufi Muslim cleric Abdul Nyass and five others of blasphemy for derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad and sentenced them to death. Four other followers of the cleric were acquitted. All who were sentenced filed appeals. On January 4, a Kano State Upper Sharia Court sentenced cleric Abdulaziz Dauda and nine followers to death for making blasphemous statements against the Prophet Muhammad; the case was on appeal at year’s end. Dauda allegedly said on May 15, 2015 that Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, a 20th century Islamic scholar of the Tijaniyah Sufi order, had a larger following than did the Prophet Muhammad. The statement led to the burning of a sharia court in Kano the following week, as angry youths protested and called for the execution of Dauda. The case was ongoing at year’s end.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said the government rarely investigated cases of violence or other abuses against religious freedom or prosecuted or punished perpetrators. It cited as an example the November 3 release of five Muslim men suspected of responsibility for the mob attack and killing of a 74-year-old Christian woman in Kano. The five men charged were released in November after the Kano attorney general said his review of the case indicated that there was no evidence against the five accused men. The CAN said this reflected a pattern of impunity throughout the country.
Both Muslim and Christian groups reported a lack of protection by federal, state, and local authorities, especially in central regions, where there were longstanding, violent disputes between Hausa Muslims and Christian ethnic groups. In April the Movement Against Fulani Occupation (MAFO), an NGO, filed a suit against the government with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice for what the NGO said was a failure to protect indigenous Christian groups against attacks by Fulani herdsmen. According to MAFO, more than 1,000 people were killed in three years. Additionally, in November the ECOWAS Court of Justice heard a case filed by the Jama’a Foundation, a Muslim association in southern Kaduna, against the government for alleged failure to protect Muslims in attacks after the 2011 presidential election, when Human Rights Watch reported more than 500 people were killed, mainly Muslims. Additionally, Fulani Muslim herdsmen and Christian farmers complained of a lack of accountability in conflicts over land use. The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeder’s Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) stated that authorities consistently failed to bring to justice Christian farmers who killed their members and their cattle, while Christian farmers stated that previous cases of attacks against them remained unresolved with either no arrests or arrests without further judicial progress. MACBAN and World Watch Monitor stated the government made no attempt to address key issues, including accountability of the perpetrators for crimes committed, prosecution of perpetrators, or security.
A pending bill in Kaduna State would require all preachers to obtain preaching licenses or risk fines and/or imprisonment for up to two years. Deputy Governor of Kaduna State Barnabas Bala said the bill was proposed to protect the state from religious extremism and hate speech. The bill would also restrict playing religious recordings at certain times and places as well as prohibit “abusive” religious speech, which it did not define further. The draft bill generated widespread opposition from both Muslim and Christian groups, who cited fears that such steps would lead to broader government restrictions on religious organizations and general religious activity.
Muslim groups said public school uniforms, particularly in the south, were too revealing and thus discriminated against their standards. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), in Osun and Lagos States, public school authorities prevented girls from wearing the hijab at school as part of their uniform. On June 3, the Osun State High Court ruled in favor of the Muslim community’s suit against the state government, which banned the hijab in 2013. The ruling decreed female students could wear the hijab in government primary and secondary schools. On July 21, a court of appeals in Lagos State lifted a 2013 ban on wearing the hijab in government schools. The judges said the ban violated the religious rights of Muslim girls.
Christian groups reported authorities in northern states continued to deny building permits to minority religious communities for the construction of new places of worship, expansion, and renovation of existing facilities, or reconstruction of buildings that had been demolished. The Christian Association of Nigeria reported that local community leaders, traditional rulers, and government officials in predominantly Muslim northern states used regulations on zoning and title registrations to stop or slow the establishment of new churches. Church leaders said they were able to evade such restrictions by purchasing and developing land in the name of an individual member of their congregation or simply by building churches without permits, but this practice left them in a tenuous legal position.
Unlike in previous years, there were no reports by Christian groups of non-Muslims in northern states appearing in sharia courts against their will. According to these groups, most Christians in northern states had learned that they had the right to refuse to appear in a sharia court and exercised that right if they did not wish to use such courts.
State governments in Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Niger, and Zamfara funded sharia law enforcement groups called the Hisbah, which Christian groups said enforced sharia inconsistently and sporadically, sometimes targeting Christians or residents of other states. While residents in areas traditionally set aside for Christians reportedly felt that Hisbah groups were generally more lenient in those areas, visitors or residents of other states and homes and businesses in predominantly Christian neighborhoods were sometimes raided as well. The Kano State Hisbah continued to arrest residents for alcohol consumption, begging, prostitution, and other purported violations of sharia. According to the NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a 15-year-old Christian girl was returned to her family in March after an investigation by the Sokoto State government Human Rights Commission. Two neighbors aided by the Hisbah in Sokoto State reportedly abducted the girl in August 2015 and took her to Bauchi State, where she was forced to convert to Islam and marry. Police arrested three people in connection with the abduction.
Christian and Muslim groups reported individual administrators of government-run universities and technical schools in several states refused to admit them or delayed the issuance of their degrees and licenses because of their religion or ethnicity. For example, in Borno State, Christians stated that they had been marginalized due to their faith and that Kanuri Muslims had been given preferential treatment for government jobs and admission to higher education. Mail & Guardian Africa, an African news website, reported that in Plateau State, Hausa Muslims stated they had been marginalized while predominantly Christian ethnic groups received preferential treatment. According to Christian and Muslim groups and NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, the issue was part of the country’s settler-indigene conflict, whereby state governments granted benefits to ethnic groups considered to be indigenous to a particular state and distinguished them from ethnic groups considered to be settlers, even if their families had lived in the state for generations. In certain states, especially in the Middle Belt, the divide was religious as well as ethnic and economic, between Christian indigenes and Muslim settlers.
Abuses by Foreign Forces and Nonstate Actors
The U.S.-designated terrorist organization Boko Haram split into two factions during the year, one pledging allegiance to ISIS and calling itself the Islamic State of West Africa (ISIS-WA), headed by Abu Musab al Barnawi, and another headed by Abubakr Shekau and retaining the traditional Boko Haram name, the Jama’atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da’awati wal-Jihad (JASDJ). Most residents referred to both groups collectively as Boko Haram.
Boko Haram continued to commit acts of mass violence in its stated quest to impose its religious and political beliefs in the northeast. Boko Haram perpetrated numerous attacks, including mass killings, often directly targeting civilians. According to estimates from the NGO Nigeria Watch, 2,900 people, including Boko Haram members, died as a result of the group’s activities during the year, compared with a press estimate of 4,780 killed in 2015. On January 30, Boko Haram raided the village of Dalori, three miles outside of Borno State capital Maiduguri, killing 122 people and abducting a number of children. In some cases, the group employed women and children as suicide bombers, such as in the October 29 suicide attack in Maiduguri that killed nine.
Boko Haram killed two Christians, burned houses, and vandalized shops in incidents in Kuburumbula and Boftari, Borno State in September. The group also burned seven houses and vandalized shops. Boko Haram tied up and killed one of the men in front of his family. On September 18, Boko Haram shot and killed eight Christians as they left a Sunday church service in Kwamjilari village in Borno State.
Most captives of past Boko Haram kidnappings of women and girls for purposes of forced marriage or sexual exploitation remained unaccounted for. In August Boko Haram released a video showing at least 50 of the 200 girls kidnapped from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State in 2014; the group demanded the release of captured Boko Haram fighters in exchange for the kidnapped girls, some of whom it said had been killed in airstrikes and 40 of whom had been married. The New York Times reported in October that the government secured the release of 21 of the girls and quoted a government official who denied Boko Haram fighters were released in exchange for the girls.
Tens of thousands of refugees remained in neighboring countries after having fled the violence in the northeast, and more than 1.7 million people remained internally displaced.
The provisional federal constitution (PFC) provides for the right of individuals to practice their religion, makes Islam the state religion, prohibits the propagation of any religion other than Islam, and stipulates all laws must comply with the general principles of sharia. The federal government was unable to implement the PFC beyond greater Mogadishu; other areas of the country were outside its control. Federal state and interim regional administrations, including Somaliland, Puntland, the Interim Juba Administration (IJA), the Interim South West Administration (ISWA), and the Interim Galmudug Administration (IGA), governed their respective jurisdictions through local legislation. The constitutions of Somaliland and Puntland declare Islam as the state religion, prohibit Muslims from converting to another religion, bar the propagation of any religion other than Islam, and require all laws to comply with the general principles of sharia.
The terrorist group al-Shabaab killed, maimed, or harassed persons suspected of converting from Islam or those who failed to adhere to the group’s religious edicts. During the year, al-Shabaab was responsible for the killings of civilians, government officials, members of parliament, Somali national armed forces and police, and troops from contributing countries of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). On October 26, pro-ISIS fighters occupied a small coastal town in Puntland and proclaimed sharia until Puntland security forces expelled them in early December.
There was strong societal pressure to adhere to Sunni Islamic traditions. Conversion from Islam to another religion remained socially unacceptable in all areas. Those suspected of conversion faced harassment by members of their community.
The U.S. government did not maintain a permanent diplomatic presence in the country. However, travel by U.S. government officials to Somalia increased from previous years, although trips remained limited to selected areas when security conditions permitted. U.S. government engagement to promote religious freedom focused on supporting efforts to bring stability, reestablish rule of law, and advocate for freedom of speech and assembly.
Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom
The PFC provides for the right of individuals to practice their religion, but prohibits the propagation of any religion other than Islam. It states all citizens, regardless of religion, have equal rights and duties before the law, but establishes Islam as the state religion and requires laws to comply with sharia principles. No exemptions from application of sharia legal principles exist for non-Muslims. The PFC does not explicitly prohibit Muslims from converting to other religions.
The constitutions of the regional administrations of Somaliland in the northwest, and Puntland in the northeast make Islam the state religion, prohibit Muslims from converting, prohibit the propagation of any religion other than Islam, and stipulate all laws must comply with the general principles of sharia.
The Somaliland constitution states: “Every person shall have the right to freedom of belief and shall not be compelled to adopt another belief. Islamic Sharia does not accept that a Muslim can renounce his beliefs.” The Puntland constitution prohibits any law or culture that contravenes Islam and prohibits demonstrations contrary to Islam. The constitution and other laws of Puntland do not define contravention of Islam.
Other regional administrations, including the IJA, ISWA, and IGA, have constitutions identifying Islam as the official religion. These constitutions stipulate all laws must comply with the general principles of sharia. The IGA and ISWA have not enacted laws directly addressing religious freedom.
The Penal Code developed in 1962 generally remains valid in all regions of the country. It does not prohibit conversion from Islam to another religion, but criminalizes blasphemy and “defamation of Islam,” which carry penalties of up to two years in prison.
The PFC and the Puntland constitution require the president, but not other office holders, to be Muslim. The Somaliland constitution requires, in addition to Somaliland’s president, the candidates for vice president and the House of Representatives to be Muslim.
The judiciary in most areas relies on xeer (traditional and customary law), sharia, and the Penal Code. Each community individually regulates and enforces religious expression, often inconsistently.
The Somaliland constitution prohibits the formation of political parties based on a particular religious group, religious beliefs, or interpretation of religious doctrine, while the PFC and the approved constitutions of other regional administrations do not contain this prohibition.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs (MRA) has legal authority to register religious groups. Guidance on how to register or what is required is inconsistent. The ministry has no ability to enforce such requirements outside of Mogadishu.
Somaliland does not have a mechanism to register religious organizations or specific requirements to register Islamic groups. The Puntland government does not have any laws governing registration or a mechanism to register religious groups. Other regional administrations do not have a mechanism to register religious organizations.
In Puntland, religious schools and places of worship must obtain permission to operate from the Puntland Ministry of Justice and Religious Affairs. In Somaliland, religious schools and places of worship must obtain permission to operate from the Somaliland Ministry of Religion. Neither Puntland nor Somaliland law delineates consequences for operating without permission. All other regional administrations require places of worship and religious schools to obtain permission to operate from local authorities.
The federal Ministry of Education has the mandate to regulate religious instruction throughout the country. Federal and regional authorities require Islamic instruction in all schools, public or private, except those operated by non-Muslims. The federal government is reviewing and taking steps to standardize the national curriculum, in part to regulate Islamic instruction. Non-Muslim students attending public schools may request an exemption from Islamic instruction, but according to federal and regional authorities, there were no such requests.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights.
Federal and regional governments maintained bans on the propagation of religions other than Islam, but there were no reports of enforcement. According to federal and regional government officials, there were no cases of individuals charged with apostasy, blasphemy, or defamation of Islam.
The government reportedly did not strictly enforce the registration requirement for religious groups opening schools for lay or religious instruction. Many religious groups did not register, but some religious groups said that the government did not pursue adverse actions against them.
The Somaliland government neither banned unregistered religious groups nor imposed financial penalties on any religious groups. In October Somaliland authorities allowed the reopening of a Catholic church in Hargeisa. The authorities said they had closed the church for several years because of the danger Christians faced in the overwhelmingly Muslim country.
The Puntland government neither banned nor imposed financial penalties on any religious groups.
On October 4, the minister of religious affairs and endowment said the ministry wanted to “create spaces for non-Muslim and religious minorities” to worship, but the current security environment undermined those efforts. He added that the ministry also contended with what he stated was Wahhabi influence from some Gulf countries.
Abuses by Foreign Forces and Nonstate Actors
Al-Shabaab continued to impose violently its own interpretation of Islamic law and practices on other Muslims. Violent conflicts continued between al-Shabaab and the federal government and its allies. Al-Shabaab retained control of some towns and rural areas, from which it regrouped to strike into urban areas using a wide variety of tactics. The group recaptured towns, including Tiyeglow, El-Alif, and Halgan, after Ethiopian forces withdrew from areas in southwestern and central Somalia.
Al-Shabaab forces targeted and killed federal government officials and their allies, calling them non-Muslims or apostates. On July 27, al-Shabaab militants targeted an AMISOM base in Mogadishu, killing at least 13 people, nine of whom were UN security personnel. Al-Shabaab spokesperson Abdulaziz Abu Muscab said the group targeted the base as a symbol of foreign forces’ occupation of their Muslim country. Al-Shabaab continued its campaign to characterize the AMISOM peacekeeping forces as “Christians” intent on invading and occupying the country. In January al-Shabaab took credit for the attack on the El Adde base, in which more than 140 mostly Christian, Kenyan soldiers serving under AMISOM died. The attackers stated “the attack [was a] message to the Kenyan Government that… invasion of Muslim lands…by the Kenyan crusaders will not be without severe consequences.”
Al-Shabaab continued to threaten to execute anyone suspected of converting to Christianity. In the areas it controlled, al-Shabaab continued to ban cinemas, television, music, the internet, and watching sporting events. It prohibited the sale of khat (a popular stimulant drug), smoking, and behavior it characterized as un-Islamic, such as shaving beards. It also enforced a strict requirement that women wear full veils.
Al-Shabaab continued to harass secular and faith-based humanitarian aid organizations, threatening the lives of their personnel and accusing them of seeking to convert Somalis to Christianity. A high-level Catholic Church official, who helped reopened the Catholic church in Hargeisa in October, said “there is no way of having a presence in Mogadishu…all pastoral work is done secretly.”
Fear of reprisals from al-Shabaab often prevented religious groups from operating freely. Al-Shabaab reportedly threatened to close mosques in areas it controlled if the mosques’ teachings did not conform to the group’s interpretation of Islam.
In areas under its control, al-Shabaab continued to mandate schools teach a militant form of jihad emphasizing that students should wage war against those it deemed infidels, including countries in the region, the federal government, and AMISOM.
Some al-Shabaab sympathizers, particularly in strongholds such as Barawe, Lower Shabelle, reportedly viewed the group as protecting Islam.
Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a, a regional militia consisting of Sufis opposed to the strict interpretations of Islam propagated by groups such as al-Shabaab, controlled Dhusamareb, a small town in central Somalia, and in previous years residents conformed to the group’s demands that they adhere to its interpretation of Islam; however, there were no such reports during the year.
On October 26, 50 ISIS fighters took control of Qandala, a small coastal town in Puntland, and a large number of residents fled. Fighters raised the ISIS flag and proclaimed sharia; there were no reported casualties. Puntland security forces expelled the ISIS fighters in early December.
The transitional constitution stipulates separation of religion and state, prohibits religious discrimination, and provides religious groups freedom to worship and assemble freely, organize themselves, teach, own property, receive financial contributions, communicate and issue publications on religious matters, and establish charitable institutions.
Christian and Muslim religious leaders regularly communicated and coordinated activities, particularly around peacebuilding and humanitarian aid. Religious and civil society leaders as well as government officials stated the country had a tolerant, interfaith society, despite the ongoing fighting between government and opposition forces throughout the country.
U.S. embassy officials met with Advisor on Religious Affairs Sheikh Tahir Bior in November to discuss the context of religious tolerance and freedom. The U.S. Ambassador and embassy representatives promoted religious freedom through discussions and outreach with government officials, religious leaders, and civil society organizations.
Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom
The transitional constitution stipulates separation of religion and state. It prohibits religious discrimination, even if the president declares a state of emergency. It states that all religions are to be treated equally and that religion should not be used for divisive purposes.
The transitional constitution provides for the right of religious groups to worship or assemble freely in connection with any religion or belief, solicit and receive voluntary financial contributions, own property for religious purposes, and establish places of worship. The transitional constitution also provides religious groups the freedom to write, issue, and disseminate religious publications; communicate with individuals and communities in matters of religion at both the national and international levels; teach religion in places “suitable” for these purposes; train, appoint, elect, or designate by succession their religious leaders; and observe religious holidays.
The government requires religious groups to register with the state government and with the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs through the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC). There were reports the ministry changed the requirements for registration during the year, but details were not available as of year’s end. Previously, faith-based organizations were required to provide their constitution, a statement of faith documenting their doctrines, beliefs, objectives and holy book, a list of executive members, and a registration fee of $100 for national or $200 for international faith-based organizations. International faith-based organizations were required also to provide a copy of a previous registration with another government and a letter from the international organization commissioning its activities in South Sudan.
The transitional constitution specifies the regulation of religious matters within each state is the executive and legislative responsibility of the state government. It establishes the responsibility of government at all levels to protect monuments and places of religious importance from destruction or desecration.
The transitional constitution allows religious groups to establish and maintain “appropriate” faith-based charitable or humanitarian institutions.
The transitional constitution guarantees every citizen access to education without discrimination based on religion.
The country is not a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
On May 15, Sister Veronika Rackova, a Slovakian missionary working as a doctor at the St. Bakhita’s Medical Center in the southern town of Yei, was shot in the stomach while driving an ambulance with a patient. According to news sources, she died from her wounds after being airlifted to Kenya for surgery. Members of the military reportedly shot her at a checkpoint. Government authorities arrested three soldiers in connection with the shooting, the motive for which remained unclear.
Media sources reported some religious institutions were looted as government and opposition forces continued fighting throughout the country, and as criminality increased. For example, in late October media sources reported armed men wearing military uniforms forcibly entered the Good Shepherd Peace Center, established by the Catholic Church to provide a place for peacebuilding and trauma healing, and robbed religious workers at gunpoint.
The Committee for National Healing, Peace and Reconciliation, an interreligious body formed by President Salva Kiir Mayardit in April 2013 with the support of donor funds, closed during the year in anticipation that it would be merged into the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission is envisaged in the August 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (the peace agreement). At year’s-end, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission had not yet been established.
Both a Christian representative and a Muslim representative read prayers at most official events, with the government often providing translation from English to Arabic.
Several religious groups were represented in government positions. President Kiir, a Catholic, employed a high-level advisor on religious affairs, Tahir Bior Ajak, a leader of the Islamic community in the country. Additional Muslim representation in government included at least one governor and 14 members of the 400-member Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA). There are no reserved seats for religious groups in the TNLA; however, all principal religious groups were represented.
Although not mandated by the government, religious education was generally included in public secondary school and university curricula. Theoretically, students could attend either a Christian or an Islamic course, and those with no religious affiliation could choose between the two courses. Because of resource constraints, however, some schools only offered education in one course. Christian and Muslim private religious schools set their own religious curriculum without government interference.
Although the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs had not released information regarding new registration policies, no religious groups reported problems with registering or with operating as an unregistered religious group.