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Sudan - Politics

Prime Minister
Sovereignty Council01 Jan 195617 Nov 1958
Ibrahim Abboud 18 Nov 1958 30 Oct 1964 Military
Committee of Sovereignty03 Dec 196408 Jul 1965
Muhammad Ahmad Mahgoub10 Jun 1965 25 Jul 1966 Umma
Sadiq al-Mahdi27 Jul 1966 18 May 1967Umma
Muhammad Ahmad Mahgoub18 May 1967 25 May 1969Umma
Babiker Awadalla25 May 1969 27 Oct 1969Non-party
Gaafar Muhammad Nimeiry28 Oct 1969 11 Aug 1976Military / SSU
Rashid Bakr11 Aug 1976 10 Sep 1977SSU
Gaafar Muhammad Nimeiry 10 Sep 1977 06 Apr 1985Military / SSU
Transitional Military Council06 Apr 198506 May 1986Non-party
Sadiq al-Mahdi06 May 1986 30 Jun 1989Umma
Omer Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir30 Jun 198911 Apr 2019Military / SNC
Awad al-Karim Ahmad Muhammad Ibn Auf11 Apr 201912 Apr 2019Military
Abdelfattah Burhan12 Apr 2019Military

Sudan is a republic with power concentrated in the hands of authoritarian President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and his inner circle. The National Congress Party (NCP) continued to control the government, continuing more than a quarter of a century of near absolute political authority. There were instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of civilian control, especially in the Darfur Region.

The 1989 military coup that overthrew Sudan's democratically elected government brought to power Lieutenant General Omar Hassan Al-Bashir and his National Salvation Revolution Command Council (RCC). Bashir and the RCC suspended the 1985 Constitution, abrogated press freedom, and disbanded all political parties and trade unions. In 1993 the RCC dissolved itself and appointed Bashir President. Presidential and parliamentary elections were held in December. All major opposition parties boycotted the elections, and there were allegations of official interference and electoral fraud. Bashir was elected to another 5-year term, and the National Congress/National Islamic Front (NC/NIF) won 340 out of 360 seats in Parliament in the deeply flawed process.

The first legislative and presidential elections to be held since 1989 took place during 6-17 March 1996. President al-Bashir, appointed as President by the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) in October 1993, was elected for a five-year term. The new National Assembly, which replaced the transitional legislature appointed in February 1992, comprised 400 seats, of which 275 were elective. The remaining 125 seats had been filled directly at a national conference in January 1996 by representatives of what were described as Sudan's "modern forces".

Since 1989 real power has rested with the NIF, founded by Dr. Hassan al-Turabi, who became Speaker of the National Assembly in 1996. In November 1998, the NIF renamed itself the National Congress (NC); NIF/NC members and supporters continue to hold key positions in the Government, security forces, judiciary, academic institutions, and the media.

The Constitution, which provides in theory for a wide range of rights, was passed by referendum in June 1998, and was implemented early in 1999. There was widespread skepticism about the Government's claims that the constitutional referendum passed with 96.7 percent approval and 91.9 percent participation. Critics of the new Constitution charged that it neither was drafted nor passed with truly national participation. Some critics also objected to the statement that "Islamic law" would be among "the prevalent sources of law" in regard to amending the Constitution. The new Constitution resulted in few changes in practice. Despite the adoption of the new Constitution, the Government continued to restrict most civil liberties.

In December 1998, implementing legislation linked to the new Constitution passed a law that would allow the restricted existence of political parties. As a result, there are 20 officially registered political parties; however, the legislation included restrictions that effectively prohibit traditional political parties if they are linked to armed opposition to the Government. The Government continued routinely to deny permission for and disrupt gatherings that it viewed as politically oriented.

In December 1999, President al-Bashir declared a state of emergency and disbanded the National Assembly two days before it was to vote on a constitutional amendment that would have reduced presidential powers. The amendment called for the creation of a Prime Minister who, though appointed by the president, would be accountable to the National Assembly. It also called for direct elections of the state governors, currently appointed by the President and, if approved, would have made their dismissal contingent on parliamentary approval.

In January 2014 the president announced the National Dialogue, an initiative designed to engage all political parties, including the opposition, civil society, and others, in a planning framework intended to recommend, initiate, and implement democratic reforms. The government also described the dialogue as a mechanism for resolving conflicts throughout the country and determining a constitutional framework. While some opposition groups agreed to participate, most major opposition parties withdrew from the dialogue early in 2014, and some independent civil society representatives claimed that the national dialogue was incomplete because it failed to bring in opposition parties, which have major influence on the ground.

In January 2015 nearly all of the 21 Sudanese opposition parties participating in a yearlong national dialogue announced they will pull out of that process, as well as upcoming elections. The most prominent of the three parties still participating in the dialogue was the Popular Congress Party (PCP), headed by former Bashir ally and veteran Islamist Hassan al-Turabi. Early in 2015 the government announced it would postpone the holding of a national dialogue until after national elections in April, and it made amendments to the Interim National Constitution.

In March the government failed to attend an AU-facilitated meeting aimed at securing inclusion of opposition and armed groups in the national dialogue. Nonetheless, in August 2015 President Bashir chaired a meeting of the High Coordinating Committee of the National Dialogue. The committee selected five national figures to settle issues that did not receive consensus in the national dialogue discussion committees. The committee also selected 50 (later increased to 70) national figures to participate in the national dialogue conference, in addition to approving 12 persons to chair six discussion committees and 26 persons to form the general secretariat of the national dialogue.

The 7+7 National Dialogue Committee was composed of the ruling National Congress Party and six other government parties, as well as seven opposition parties. The government launched the dialogue on 10 October 2015, although major opposition parties and rebel groups continued to boycott the process until year’s end. In October the government stated its intention to complete the dialogue within three months. The government, however, extended the dialogue to allow for more participation by political and armed opposition groups.

The Sudanese government and its allied political forces concluded the National Dialogue Conference on 10 October 2016 by the adoption of the National Document. The recommendations of the conference provides to open the door for the holdout opposition groups to sign the framework text and to join the transitional government and parliament that would work to implement the reforms agreed in the National Document. But, the opposition armed and political groups criticize the move saying it breaches the Roadmap Agreement which provides to hold a preparatory meeting to create a conducive environment for an inclusive process. The opposition also proposes to consider the National Document as representing the government’s position and to discuss it in another dialogue conference with them.

After the end of the internal dialogue conference, the opposition groups condemned the adoption of the final National Document to be implemented during a three-year transitional period. They said this text is a clear breach to the Roadmap agreement which provides to hold an inclusive meeting after the implementation of confidence building measures starting with the humanitarian truce.

Government forces, government-aligned groups, rebels, and armed groups commit human rights abuses and violations. The most serious human rights abuses and violations include: indiscriminate and deliberate bombings of civilian areas; ground attacks that included the killing and beating of civilians, sexual and gender-based violence, forced displacement, looting and burning entire villages, and destroying the means necessary for sustaining life; and attacks on humanitarian targets, including humanitarian facilities and peacekeepers.

Other major abuses include: extrajudicial and other unlawful killings; torture, beatings, rape and other cruel or inhuman treatment or punishment; arbitrary arrest and detention by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; incommunicado detention; prolonged pretrial detention; obstruction of humanitarian assistance; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement; and intimidation and closure of human rights and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Societal abuses included discrimination against women; sexual violence; female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C); use of child soldiers; child abuse; sexual exploitation of children; trafficking in persons; discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, persons with disabilities, and persons with HIV/AIDS; denial of workers’ rights; and child labor.

Conflict between government forces and rebels in Darfur, Blue Nile, and Southern Kordofan states continued. Government forces and rebels committed violations and abuses in these areas. The government routinely impeded independent efforts to investigate violations and abuses in conflict zones. Localized violence between ethnic communities in the disputed area of Abyei continued in the form of cattle raids, although to a lesser extent than in previous years. In Darfur clashes between government forces and rebel groups decreased in 2015, and intercommunal violence was slightly less prevalent.

Direct talks were brokered by the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) in August 2016. In June 2016, President Omar Al Bashir announced a four-month unilateral ceasefire for South Kordofan and the Blue Nile (the Two Areas). A few days later, it was extended to Darfur. On 10 October, while addressing the closing session of the National Dialogue, the president announced an extension of the ceasefires until the end of the 2016. Three of the four main Sudanese rebel movements reacted by announcing a cessation of hostilities until 30 April 2017. The Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdelwahid El Nur, however, continued to fight the government in Darfur's Jebel Marra area.

Rising prices, shortages of basic commodities and a cash crisis pushed protesters to the streets across Sudan to demonstrate against Bashir, who took power in a military coup in 1989. On 3 November 2016, the Sudanese government lifted fuel subsidies and increased electricity price in a bid to stop the surge in inflation and control the fall of Sudanese pound in the black market. The government move stirred up small-scale protests in several towns across the country, including the capital Khartoum, Atbara, Wad Madani and Nyala. The dramatic increase in the price of medication, fuel and electricity in Sudan spurred calls for civil disobedience over social media and on the ground across the country. On 27 November 2018, life came to a standstill on the streets of Khartoum, as Sudanese citizens responded to a call for three-days of civil disobedience. Protests against austerity measures are not new to Sudan. In 2012, another patch of austerity measures sent protesters on to the streets. Rising fuel prices in 2013 generated public outrage. A popular protest in September 2012 took a bloody turn, as security forces cracked down on protesters killing 200 people.

Since 19 December 2018, Sudan was rocked by persistent protests sparked by the government's attempt to triple the price of bread, and an economic crisis that has led to fuel and cash shortages. Opposition figures called for the military to help negotiate an end to Bashir's nearly three decades in power and a transition to democracy.

On 08 April 2019, security forces attacked protesters encamped in front of the headquarters of the Sudanese army in the capital Khartoum. They fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition in an attempt to disperse the sit-in. Snipers from a building across the street were also targeting the protesters. Mass casualties were only avoided due to the intervention from the military, who ushered protesters into the army's headquarters compound. They also engaged in a firefight with the attacking security contingent and allied militias. The total number of casualties had reached 14, five of them soldiers. The demonstrators at the defence ministry had said that they wanted to submit a petition for the armed forces to take their side in their attempt to remove Bashir and his administration.

This was ominous, since such an unpopular regime could not last a day without army support. Young officers manning the barricades had shown open sympathy with the protesters, and readiness to fight and die protecting them.

President Omar al-Bashir was detained and a military council will run the country for a two-year transitional period, Sudan's defense minister announced 11 April 2019, bringing an end to Bashir’s 30-year reign. In a statement broadcast on state TV, Defense Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, dressed in military fatigues, said there would be elections at the end of the transition period. Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service also released all political prisoners across the country.

In July 2020 Sudan's ruling body, the Sovereign Council, ratified a law banning the widespread practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). This was only one of several modifications to the country's criminal law. The others include the decriminalization of apostasy, which so far was punishable by death and allowing non-Muslims to consume alcohol. In addition, traveling with children will now require the authorization of both sets of parents, and no longer only the father's. The ongoing reversal of four decades of hard-line Islamist policies and Sharia law — one year after a popular uprising toppled autocrat leader Omar al-Bashir — is being hailed across the world as much-needed progress.

Another change in the criminal code is an amendment to a law that punishes prostitution. Sexual intercourse for money will now only be punishable if it takes place in a location that is dedicated to the sale of sexual favors, such as a brothel. For the lifestyle of a certain segment of the population in Khartoum, these are welcome changes. Western donors had long pushed for more progressive laws in Sudan.

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Page last modified: 26-10-2021 13:52:47 ZULU