Since 2020, ABA ROLI has supported the development of a new Sudanese Constitution, in parallel with a now twice-stalled transition to a civilian-led democracy. The Supporting a New Sudanese Constitution project aims to support Sudanese people in a flexible and responsive manner in their sovereign pursuit of a new constitution that will serve as a true social contract for a liberal and democratic Sudan.
Throughout the life of this project, events in the conflict and political context in Sudan have stalled the transition to civilian-led democracy, and thus the development of a new constitution. In October 2021, the power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilian coalition, Forces for Freedom and Change, broke down, leading to a restoration of military rule and a renegotiation of the path to democracy and a new constitution. Through 2022, the transition slowly got back on track, while ABA ROLI’s focus turned to supporting the Sudanese Bar Association’s (SBA) drafting of transitional constitutional as a shorter-term objective with a permanent constitution as a long-term goal.
Early in 2023, ABA ROLI worked closely with our local partners to advance activities related to the transitional constitution in parallel with an anticipated signed political agreement restoring the path to civilian democracy in early April. We supported the Regional Centre for the Development of Civil Society to host a series of community and regionally based consultations to gather views on the most key issues relevant to the constitution. Similarly, ABA ROLI worked with Justice Africa Sudan to facilitate a set of regional based dialogues to build agreement on the most controversial issues the constitutional text must address. Insights from these engagements were collected and shared with the SBA for inclusion in the draft transitional constitution. Furthermore, we continued our partnership with the Darfur Women’s Action Group to raise awareness of the constitution-making process among women’s groups in Darfur and develop mechanisms for women’s issues to be meaningfully included.
Tragically, work on the constitution and political transition came to a halt when war broke out between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Sudan Armed Forces on April 15—two military factions that were set to merge as a part of the transition. As the war continued throughout the year, both warring parties have blatantly committed grave human rights violations that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. As the RSF has captured large tracts of Darfur, reports have indicated a surge in ethnically driven killings. With estimates indicating that more than six million Sudanese have been displaced from the war, several areas in Sudan face a humanitarian catastrophe.
At the outbreak of the conflict, ABA ROLI focused our attention on the safety and security of its staff. After the initial months of war, civilian groups who were leading the transition to democracy began leading and playing key roles in several peace initiatives. To this end, with our partners, ABA ROLI identified several areas where programming on the constitution would be relevant. This was done with a view that any future constitution-making process may be linked with a peace agreement and renewed political transition, in addition to overlap on key issues related to any peace agreement or future constitution.
In late 2023, ABA ROLI began active engagement with Sudanese lawyer groups displaced both within the region and in Sudan to discuss their role in leading community-based awareness-raising sessions and consultations on the constitution. Similarly, we continued our work with women’s groups by connecting with groups displaced in the region to ensure that women’s perspectives are included in the ongoing peace initiatives and constitution-making processes.