The Forum in Spain


People have lived in the region now known as the modern day Republic of Sudan for thousands of years. The ancient Kingdom of Kush sporadically came under the rule of the Egyptian pharaohs for several centuries, and was eventually succeeded by a number of independent Nubian Kingdoms. In the nineteenth century, parts of Sudan came periodically under the control of the Ottomans, the Egyptians, and the British. The combined Egyptian-British rule endured into the mid-twentieth century.

In February 1953 the British and Egyptian governments concluded an agreement providing for Sudanese self-government and self-determination. After a period of political instability and the beginning of the First Sudanese Civil war, on 19 December 1955 the Sudanese Parliament unilaterally and unanimously declared independence.

The civil war had its origins in the 1946 decision of the British and Egyptian governing authorities to merge the formerly separated north and south Sudan into a single administrative unit. This act, taken without consultation of the southern leaders, brought the politically weaker, culturally sub-Saharan, mostly Christian South, into conflict with the politically powerful, culturally Arabic, mostly Muslim North. When independence was declared, the Arab-led Khartoum government initially promised to implement a federal governance system to assuage the fears of the southern political leaders that they would be politically dominated and persecuted. When the Khartoum government reneged on the promise to implement a federal system, a mutiny led by southern army officers sparked a 17 year civil war.

The two decades which followed the declaration of independence were characterized by a series of political and military coups, ongoing tension between the north and south, and economic instability. In 1983, the Second Sudanese Civil war, which was largely a continuation of the first and centered around competition for natural resources and the attempts the Khartoum government to impose Islamic sharia law on the non-Muslim southern population, began. This conflict lasted for 22 years, only ending when both sides signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005. The CPA provided autonomy for south Sudan for a period of six years, after which a referendum on secession could be held. In January 2011 the South Sudanese independence referendum was held, with 98% of the nearly 4 million voters approving of secession. Subsequently, the Republic of South Sudan became an independent nation on 9 July 2011.

The 2005 CPA also fundamentally changed the constitutional foundation of Sudan. In 2005 the Interim National Constitution of the Republic of Sudan came into force, outlining a decentralized and broadly federal structure for the country (which at that time still included the autonomous region of South Sudan). This Constitution remains in force today in the Republic of Sudan.


Officially the Republic of Sudan is a federal, presidential representative democratic republic comprised of a total of 18 states. The President of Sudan is both the Head of State and the Head of the Government. The current president, Omar al-Bashir, first assumed the Presidency in 1993, four years after he led a military coup against the government, and he has subsequently won four presidential elections.

The 2005 Interim National Constitution created the new Sudanese National Legislature, a bicameral parliament which replaced the previous unicameral body. The National Legislature consists of the Council of States (the upper house), and the National Assembly (the lower house). All members of the National Legislature serve six-year terms. The Council of States consists of 50 members indirectly elected by state legislatures, and the National Assembly is comprised of 450 members.

Each Sudanese state has its own governor and council of ministers. The election of governors, however, is strongly influenced by the central government. The president selects three candidates for governor who run against one another in a popular vote. The candidate who achieves 50% of the popular vote becomes state governor.

The Republic of Sudan is characterized by the authoritarian nature of central government control and in the last decade has been plagued by allegations of corruption, repressive government practices, famine, and political violence between internal political, ethnic, and tribal groups and the government. The ongoing war in Darfur reflects the ongoing challenge that the implementation of effective democratic federal governance poses in the Republic of Sudan.

Sudan is now comprised of 18 states, rather than the 25 states it used to be made up of prior to the secession of South Sudan.

Past Work

The Forum assisted senior officials in Sudan in designing and developing the institutions for the new Sudanese Government of National Unity through provision of technical expertise and specialized information on federal governance.

The Forum provided options for Sudan’s senior policy makers on how to implement important federal aspects of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of Sudan and South Sudan. The Forum also brought together policy makers, academics, civil society, political party members and journalists to influence the debates and decisions about how to share power and wealth in Sudan.

The Sudanese central, state and local government officials and civil society members as well as wider community in Sudan acquired a greater knowledge and awareness of federalism by participating in workshops and public awareness activities. The Sudanese public authorities and different segments of civil society as well as Sudan’s civil service gained a better understanding of how to handle the finances of their new federal system in both the central and subnational levels.

The Forum worked with Sudanese universities to develop a curriculum on federalism.
Forum’s Sudan program was funded by the Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) that granted the Forum $3.96 million over the years 2005-2011.