Sudan -- Democracy

Khartoum, 3 January 1996/SS/15033c-is

Approximately 10,000 delegates and invitees from all regions of the Sudan participated from 1 to 3 January in the inaugural session of the National Congress, the supreme political body in the Sudan. The session which was opened by President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir, marked the constitutional transformation to a federal system of participatory democracy in which all regions and all sectors of society are actively involved. Basic popular congresses in villages and townships decide directly about local affairs and appoint the members of the state congresses which in turn send their delegates to the National Congress. A 400-member National Assembly (as legislative body on the federal level) will be constituted later this year by direct elections of 125 delegates through the present session of the National Congress.

This new constitutional system is aimed to avoid the shortcomings of a centralised state model and of the traditional Western party system. This system – under the specific religious, ethnic and socio-cultural circumstances in the Sudan – proved to be a factor of division and tribalism, undermining the political and social integration of the country. As President Al-Bashir stated in his inaugural speech, the Sudan is now undertaking an attempt at shaping a system of genuine democracy that is in conformity with the country’s traditions.

The President of the International Progress Organization, Professor Hans Koechler, participated in the inaugural session of the National Congress as a guest of honour. He later exchanged views with President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir about the principles of democracy and the constitutional transformation process in the Sudan. Professor Koechler also met with the Secretary-General of the Arab-Islamic Popular Conference, Dr. Hassan Al-Turabi. He will participate in the Second Conference on Inter-Religious Dialogue to be held in Khartoum later this year.