State and politics
Sudan, since independence from Britain in 1956, has been
marked by civil war and violent conflicts between different
population groups and has been predominantly governed by
The constitution in force since 1998 (except for the
years 2005–11, see below) was repealed in April 2019, when
President Omar al-Bashir was deposed in a military coup.
Since August 2019, the country has been governed by a
transitional council led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan
(born 1960). In August, an agreement was reached between the
military council that took power in April and
representatives of the protest movement whose demonstrations
led to the fall of the previous regime. Under the agreement,
the transitional council is to be led by a military for 21
months and then by a civilian for 18 months. According to
the agreement, general elections will be held at the end of
The Transitional Council consists of six civilians and
five military personnel. The civil transitional government
appointed by the Transitional Council is headed by Abdalla
Hamdok (born 1956), an economist who has been commissioned
by the UN, among others.
According to the previous constitution, the president is
the head of state and government. Formally, the president
was allowed to sit for a maximum of two five-year terms,
which did not prevent Omar al-Bashir from remaining as head
of state for 30 years (16 of which were president).
The Parliament, dissolved in connection with the 2019
coup, consisted of a lower house (the National Assembly),
which had 426 directly elected members, and an upper house
(the Cabinet), with 56 members; 54 of these were appointed
by the elected parliaments of the states while two
represented the disputed Abyei. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how SU can stand for Sudan.
The military government that took power in a coup in the
summer of 1989 gave Sudan reputation as one of the world's
toughest dictatorships. The political opposition and the
trade union movement were persecuted and the media was
silenced. The regime received harsh criticism for violations
of human rights. The military regime, which was replaced by
a civilian government in 1993, for many years was closely
allied with Islamic forces and gave foreign terrorists,
including Usama bin Ladin, a refuge in Sudan.
From the late 1990s, however, the government sought
better relations with the Western world; they expelled
wanted terrorists, broke with the Islamist movement and
cooperated with Western intelligence services in the
so-called war on terror. The conflict that erupted in the
western Darfur region in 2003 reinforced the image of Sudan
as a deeply undemocratic state.
Head of State 1989–2019 (1993 President) was Omar
al-Bashir. He received 76 percent of the votes in the
unopposed presidential election held in 1996. He was
re-elected in 2000 with 86.5 percent of the votes in a
boycott of the opposition, and in 2010 with 68 percent of
the votes in a election characterized by problems, delays,
cheating and harassment. In the 2015 elections, al-Bashir
received 94 percent of the vote.
In the 2010 parliamentary elections, the National
Congress Party led by al-Bashir received 323 of 450
seats. In 2015, the opposition boycotted the parliamentary
elections and the government party received 323 of 426
Omar al-Bashir was forced to resign in April 2019
following extensive protests that began in late 2018 (see
above). Later that year, he was sentenced to court for
corruption and the National Congress Party dissolved
following a decision by the transitional government.
Sudan and South Sudan
A more than 20-year-long civil war ended in 2005, when
the Arab and Muslim-dominated government in northern Sudan
made peace with the Christian-dominated guerrilla movement
Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) in
southern Sudan. The conflict between the culturally very
different northern and southern parts of Sudan goes far back
in time. The Arab majority's constant attempts to Arabize
and Islamize the southern black groups of the South have
characterized the country's history. Competition for natural
resources has been an important factor behind the conflicts.
In the past, the struggle was mainly about the water from
the Nile, and later it was largely about the significant oil
resources in the southern part of the country (now South
According to a provisional constitution adopted in July
2005, Sudan would until 2011 be led by a unifying government
with representatives of both the northern and southern
regions. Then, in a referendum, the people of the south
would have to decide whether the region should form an
independent state or remain within Sudan. Until then,
Southern Sudan enjoyed widespread self-government with its
own government and military defense. At national level, the
former guerrilla was intended to be included in the army. In
the referendum held in January 2011, 99 percent of voters
voted for independence and on July 9, 2011, the independent
Republic of South Sudan was proclaimed. However, the
boundary between the countries has not yet been established
and disagreement about the oil that is mined in South Sudan
but transported through Sudan has risked triggering a
The previously common use of English law declined
significantly in the 1980s, as the Sudanese legal system
underwent a radical adaptation to Islamic law. The Civil
Code of 1984 is in large part a copy of Jordan's civil law.
The death penalty is punished for some serious crimes.
Sudan is considered one of the world's most corrupt
states and in 2014 ranked 173 out of 174 countries according
to Transparency International's corruption index. The
situation in Sudan has been greatly affected by the fact
that since independence in 1956 the country has been
characterized by civil war, and respect for human rights is
lacking on many levels. Both the legislation and its
application entail fundamental restrictions on the rights of
After South Sudan's independence in 2011, armed conflicts
continue to destroy large parts of Darfur, southern Kordofan
and the Blue Nile.
Sudan has continuously tightened its restrictions on
freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of
assembly in what appears to be an effort to silence
independent dialogue. The government uses national security
service and security forces to censor the media and to close
public forums and halt protests. Reporters Without Borders
Press Freedom Index placed Sudan in place 174 out of 180
countries in 2015.
The courts are often strongly influenced by the executive
power and the legal sector has shortcomings throughout the
country. Impunity is governed by law for the security
service, the military and the police, for acts performed on
orders and in the service. Representatives of military
groups and rebel groups are often accused of human rights
violations and international humanitarian law. The cases
rarely reach court.
Women in Sudan have the right to vote and 25 percent of
the seats in the national parliament are reserved for women.
Genital mutilation is still the norm and 90 percent of women
in the country are circumcised. The situation of female
internally displaced people is serious and rape within the
marriage is not punishable. In 2013, Sudan had not signed or
ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination against Women.
The government has not made any significant effort to
rectify, for example, child labor and the presence of child
soldiers. However, a new children's law entered into force
in December 2009 with the aim of implementing the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child in Sudanese law. Under
national law it is now prohibited to sentence a minor to
death, but deficiencies in the application are common and
death sentences against minors still exist.
Heads of State
||Abdel Fattah al-Burhan 1
* Only those presidents who served as heads of state
under the Constitution are included here, not titular
presidents, chair of the Supreme Council, etc.
1 Transitional Council Leader