Sudan Dissolves National Congress Party, Repeals Public Order Bill

Al-Bashir addresses a mass public rally in Nyala

Khartoum — In a joint meeting on Thursday, Sudan's Sovereign Council and Cabinet decided to disband the National Congress Party established by ousted President Omar Al Bashir, and to cancel the infamous Public Order Law.

Hundreds of Sudanese took to the streets of Khartoum late on Thursday evening to celebrate the changes.

"The decisions on Thursday evening are a positive response to the demands of the Sudanese uprising, that called for Freedom, Justice, and Peace, and the dismantling of the oppressive Al Bashir's regime that ruled the country for three decades," a listener told Radio Dabanga from Khartoum.

Since its formation in early September, PM Abdallah Hamdok's new government began to work on removing elements of Sudan's 'deep state', consisting of affiates of Al Bashir's National Congress Party (NCP), from government posts, combating the widespread corruption and restoring the Rule Of Law in the country.

"During a joint meeting with our partners in the Sovereign Council, we have endorsed this law to establish justice and respect for the dignity of the people of Sudan and to safeguard their victories," PM Hamdok said in a Tweet yesterday.

"The law passed to dismantle NCP and disempower it, did not result from a quest for vengeance but rather to preserve and restore the dignity of our people who have grown weary of the injustice under the hands of NCP who have looted & hindered the development of this great nation," he stated.

According to the Dismantling of the Salvation Regime Act, the dissolution of the former ruling party means that a committee will be formed to confiscate the vast assets of the NCP.

"This is also to enable efforts to retrieve the stolen wealth of the people of Sudan who have remained strong, resilient and revolutionary," Hamdok tweeted.

The Act also stipulates that none of the symbols of the regime or party will be allowed to engage in any political activity for a period of 10 years.

In its 2017 report 'Sudan's Deep State', the US-based Enough Project pointed to an "inner circle within Khartoum" that privately expropriated oil, gold, and land for self-enrichment and maintaining control through corruption and violence. Reuters reported on Tuesday how Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan 'Hemeti', Deputy Head of the Sovereign Council and Commander-in-Chief of the Rapid Support Forces, Sudan's main government militia, enriched himself and his family.

'Humiliation'

As for the Public Order law, Hamdok tweeted this morning that "This law is notorious for being used as a tool of exploitation, humiliation & violation of rights. Many have used this law for financial & psychological exploitation. Along the way alot of women and youth endured confiscation of their belongings and unforgettable harm."

Since the introduction of the Muslim Sharia law in 1983, the more than once amended infamous Public Order Act has enforced strict moral codes by prohibiting "indecent and immoral acts".

Most of the offenses relate to interactions between men and women, dancing, choice of dress, smoking, and other personal behaviour that the authorities deemed improper.

Victims

The Public Order system disproportionately affected women. "Sudanese women are the mirror of the injustices and discriminatory nature of Sudan's legal system. These laws as long as they continue to serve are affecting communities for generations to come by imposing the subordination of women in the mindset of the younger generation, and hence taking away any potential for the country to progress and to live in peace," said Hala Alkarib, founder and director of the SIHA Network for women rights in the Horn of Africa, in 2018.

In 2016, more than 45,000 complaints were issued against women under Sudan's Public Order Act, medical doctor Ihsan Fagiri, Coordinator of the No to Oppression of Women Initiative, told Radio Dabanga in April 2017. "Students, working women, and especially food and tea vendors have received the lion's share of physical and verbal violence," she said.

In June 2015, for instance, 12 young Christian Nuba women were detained by the Public Order police for wearing "indecent outfits", when they were leaving a church in Khartoum North. They wore trousers and skirts. Later that year, five members of the Sudanese athletics team were held by the Public Order police in southern Khartoum for wearing "indecent dress".

The rules also punished men brewing or drinking alcohol, among them Sudanese and also South Sudanese Christians living in the country. In general, they were sentenced to a fine and flogging the day after they were held.

Calls

Earlier on Thursday, the No Oppression Against Women Initiative organised a vigil near the Presidential Palace, demanding the abolition of the Public Order system and articles in the Sudanese 1991 Criminal Act.

Coordinator Ihsan El Fagiri handed a memorandum to Mohamed El Faki, member of the Sovereign Council, calling for the removal of articles of the Criminal Code (152-153-154-155) that "violate human rights, dignity, and privacy".

The articles violate the Constitutional Document, signed by the military junta and the Forces for Freedom and Change in August, the memo stated.

In September, the Sudanese Women's Union called on the Sovereign Council to repeal laws restricting freedoms and the participation of women in commissions and institutions of the transitional government.

Sudanese women activists as well have called for more participation of women in the country's current peace processes.

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