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Sudan Politics

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 dictatorial regimes.

Political System of Sudan

GOVERNMENT

The constitution in force since 1998 (except for the years 2005–11, see below) was repealed in April 2019, when President Omar al-Bashir was deposed in a military coup.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 2022.

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.

Policy

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 seats.

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 Sudan).

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 regular war.

Judiciary

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.

Human Rights

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 the population.

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

Presidents *

1971-85 Jafar Numayri
1993-2019 Omar al-Bashir
2019- 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

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