Sudan is mired in a structural governance crisis which threatens the stability, viability and unity of the state. Addressing this crisis will require both significant political change and a series of extensive reforms within the key functions of the state, including in political governance, the rule of law and the economy. Over the past few months, Sudan Democracy First Group has engaged a wide range of Sudanese academics and civil society actors in a debate on the reforms needed for a viable, peaceful and democratic Sudan. Today, we release the first in a series of discussion papers which analyze the status of each sector and identify key reforms.

The first paper tackles Sudan’s deep political crisis. In the peripheries of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the authority and legitimacy of the state continues to be challenged by armed movements; while in the center, the majority of opposition parties have rejected the government’s National Dialogue process and are demanding change. While the April elections may have occurred, the opposition boycott and low turnout have highlighted the lack of accountability between the government and the population, as well as the lack of faith in the electoral and legislative systems as a mechanism for reform.

In this paper, Reforming Government Structures and Politics (also available in Arabic), Professor al-Tayib Zain al-Abdien Mohamed contends that, since independence, Sudan has failed to create a political system, including a permanent Constitution, able to manage the country’s diversity, resulting in weak and short-lived democratic governments followed by military coups and long dictatorships. He argues that a “serious and constructive national dialogue” is needed for a “comprehensive, fair and peaceful solution”, which has the “agreement and consent between all the Sudanese people.” The paper highlights a raft of institutional reforms required to support a “decentralized democratic system”, including:

  • An inclusive constitution-making process, culminating in a permanent Constitution;
  • A fundamental reform of the federal system based on six regions, with a fair and equitable distribution of revenues;
  • The introduction of a strengthened legislature with greater oversight, elected on the basis of proportional representation;
  • The introduction of an elected Prime Minister and six regional assistants within the Presidency;
  • A reconstituting of the civil service based on merit, but with affirmative action to increase regional representation; and
  • Strengthening of both political parties and civil society to build a democratic culture.

The next two papers in this series, which aims to provoke further debate on the need for institutional reforms in Sudan, will focus on reforms in the rule of law and economic policy.

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