Sudan's president to announce government, constitution shake-up

Reuters , Monday 27 Jan 2014

Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir (Photo: Reuters)

Sudan's president will announce plans on Monday to redraw the constitution and bring opposition parties into government, a senior member of his party said, in a bid to shake-up a country beset by rebellions, protests and an economic crisis.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has had to wrestle with a sharp drop in oil revenues, the main source of government income, and rising inflation after losing the bulk of his active oilfields following the secession of South Sudan in 2012.

Subsidy cuts and other austerity measures brought in last September to cope with the crisis led to the capital's worst streets protests in years. Security forces responded swiftly, killing more than 200 protesters, opposition groups said. The government said 34 people died.

Sudan was placed on a U.S. sanctions list in 1993 for harbouring "international terrorists" and is under international sanctions for actions during the conflict in the Darfur region that has killed hundreds of thousands of people since 2003.

Its isolation was deepened when the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Bashir on charges of orchestrating war crimes in Darfur, where mainly African tribes took up arms in 2003 against the Arab-led government in Khartoum, which they accuse of discriminating against them.

Bashir will announce wide-ranging political reforms in a live television address late on Monday, Rabie Abdelati, a senior member of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), said.

"The president will invite the opposition parties today to participate in the preparation of a new constitution and to participate in organising new elections and then in sharing in government," Abdelati said.

He did not go into details of how the constitution would be changed, what role opposition groups might play in the government or whether the changes would affect the timing of national elections scheduled for 2015.

"These reforms by Bashir and his party are not in response to international pressures or the International Criminal Court," he said. "It is the conviction that the country cannot be commanded by one party and this is what we have learned after being in power for more than 20 years."

The main opposition parties said they would attend Bashir's speech. There was no suggestion the new political order would include anti-government campaign groups behind many of the street protests.

Bashir, a former army officer, has ruled Sudan since coming to power in a bloodless 1989 coup backed by Islamists and the powerful army. Since then, he has weathered rebellions and an attempted coup.

Bashir has pledged to step down next year after presidential and parliamentary elections. No date has been set.

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