KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudanese transitional authorities approved a law on Thursday to dissolve the former ruling party and repealed a public order law used to regulate women’s behaviour under ex-president Omar al-Bashir, the justice minister said.
Sudan’s Prime Minister in the transitional government Abdalla Hamdok addresses residents during his visit to the camps of El-Fashir in North Darfur, Sudan November 4, 2019. REUTERS/El Tayyieb Siddig/File Photo
The two measures responded to key demands by a protest movement that helped overthrow Bashir in April.
Their implementation will be a crucial test of how far transitional authorities are willing or able to go to overturn nearly three decades of rule by Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup and whose Islamist movement penetrated deep into Sudan’s institutions.
The law to dissolve Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) also allows for the party’s assets to be seized, Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdelbari said. State TV described it as a measure to “dismantle” the former regime.
The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which spearheaded the protests against Bashir, welcomed the law.
“It is an important step on the path to building a democratic civilian state,” the group said in a statement.
The law was passed during a marathon, 14-hour meeting of Sudan’s sovereign council and cabinet. The meeting saw disputes over an article that bans people who took leading posts in the former regime from practicing politics, sources with knowledge of the proceedings told Reuters.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Twitter that the measure was not an act of revenge, but was rather aimed at preserving the “dignity of the Sudanese people”.
Information Minister Faisal Mohamed Saleh said the delay in approving the law was caused by work to “improve” it. “By this law, we want to establish a new era,” he said.
In the capital Khartoum, some drivers hooted car horns in celebration after the late night announcement, while others exchanged slogans from the uprising on social media.
Hamdok’s government was formed in September after a power-sharing deal between anti-Bashir groups and the Transitional Military Council that ruled the country immediately after Bashir’s overthrow.
The transitional authorities are due to hold power for just over three years before elections.
Under Bashir, the public order law was deployed to impose conservative Islamic social codes, restricting women’s freedom of dress, movement, association, work and study.
This could include preventing women from wearing trousers or leaving their hair uncovered in public, or mixing with men other than their husbands or an immediate relative.
Those found to have contravened the law could be punished with flogging. Hamdok called the rules “an instrument of exploitation, humiliation, violation, aggression on the rights of citizens.”
Women played a prominent role in months of protests against Bashir.
Women’s rights activist Hadia Hasaballah said the repeal of the law showed the failure of Islamist ideology.
“The decision to abolish the public order law is a culmination of the courageous struggles of women for 30 years,” she told Reuters. “Women martyrs deserve it.”
Reporting by Khartoum bureau; additional reporting by Hesham AbdulKhalek, Alaa Swilam, Samar Hassan; writing by Mahmoud Mourad and Aidan Lewis; editing by Richard Pullin