Sudan amends constitution to let Bashir name governors

AFP , Sunday 4 Jan 2015

Sudan's parliament on Sunday passed constitutional amendments allowing President Omar al-Bashir to appoint state governors directly and expanding the mandate of its powerful security agency.

"The amendments were approved unanimously," national assembly speaker Al-Fatih Ezzedine Mansour said after parliament agreed to 18 changes.

Elections for state governors had also been due to take place in April along with presidential and parliamentary polls.

The proposed amendments pushed the date of the elections back by 11 days, and polling is now scheduled for April 13.

Bashir, 71, is standing again in the election which is widely expected to extend his reign but that opposition parties have said they will boycott.

Another amendment expanded the responsibilities of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service.

The amendment means the NISS is now a "regular force whose mission is to oversee internal and external national security", Badria Suleiman, head of the committee that examined the amendments, said on Sunday.

The NISS will also "work to combat all political, military, economic and social threats, as well as terrorism".

Previously, Sudan's constitution said the NISS was a body for gathering and analysing intelligence, although it already ran military units in addition to having plain clothes officers.

It has authority for the Rapid Support Forces or RSF, a counter-insurgency unit deployed in the western Darfur region and in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in a report last April, accused the RSF of carrying out attacks against civilians, an allegation Sudan has denied.

MPs from the opposition Popular Congress Party pulled out of a session in parliament on Saturday night over the amendments.

"What is happening is a violation of the constitution," said the head of the PCP's parliamentary bloc, Ismail Hussein.

Sudan has an interim constitution signed under a 2005 peace agreement that ended 22 years of bloody civil war between the north and south.

Bashir seized power in a 1989 coup and won a 2010 presidential election marred by an opposition boycott, with observers saying the vote failed to meet international standards.

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