Sudan’s transitional authorities have approved a law to dissolve the former ruling party and repealed a public order law used to regulate women’s behaviour under the rule of the former president Omar al-Bashir.
The two measures were in response to key demands by a protest movement that helped overthrow Bashir in April.
Their implementation will be a crucial test of how far the transitional authorities are willing or able to go to overturn nearly three decades of rule by Bashir. The ex despot took power in a 1989 coup and his islamist movement penetrated deep into Sudan’s institutions.
The law to dissolve Bashir’s National Congress party also allowed for its assets to be seized, said Nasredeen Abdelbari, the justice minister. State TV described it as a measure to “dismantle” the former regime.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, 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 14-hour meeting of Sudan’s sovereign council and cabinet. Sources with knowledge of the proceedings said there were disagreements over one article. The contentious article bans people who took leading posts in the former regime from practicing politics.
The prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, said on Twitter that the measure was not an act of revenge. It instead aimed at preserving the “dignity of the Sudanese people”.
Faisal Mohamed Saleh, the information minister, 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.
The failure of islamist ideology
In the capital, Khartoum, drivers hooted car horns in celebration after the late-night announcement, while slogans from the uprising were shared on social media.
Hamdok’s government was formed in September after a power-sharing deal was agreed between anti-Bashir groups and the Transitional Military Council. The latter 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. These codes restricted 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. It could also pertain to women 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 the months of protests against Bashir.
The 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 said. “Women martyrs deserve it.”
The obliviation of the ex-ruling party is another manifestation of the impermanence of power.