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Popular Consultation in Sudan

Tom, you're right to highlight Sudan as a possible "hot spot" for constitutional reform in 2010 (and beyond), but not necessarily in the context of "crisis." This isn't to say some sort of crisis is out of the question (or even unlikely), but it is not the only scenario in which meaningful constitutional reform might take place.

The two states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile are just now embarking on the CPA-mandated process of "popular consultation," in which they are to ascertain the "will of the people" on "shortcomings in the constitutional, political, and administrative arrangements of the [CPA]." During 2010 both states plan to engage in intense broad-based grassroots consultations that will mirror other recent efforts at constitutional reform in Africa. (Just this week leaders of the two states were in Kenya speaking to officials from Kenya’s current and previous constitution-making exercises.)

Should the people of these two states decide "shortcomings" do in fact exist (a foregone conclusion if the process unfolds without undue manipulation or obstruction) new legal, administrative, and institutional arrangements are to be negotiated with Khartoum. While not explicitly stated, many believe the outcomes from these negotiations should be constitutionalized – either as amendments to the existing interim constitution or as part of a larger constitutional process.

While “popular consultation” envisions the two states remain part of the north – it provides a mechanism for them to negotiate wealth and power-sharing arrangements that could potentially remake northern Sudan into the type of federal state many believe critical to its sustainability. What’s more, this process is unlikely to end with Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile but instead could provide a model for other discontented areas of Sudan (most notably Darfur and the eastern states) to negotiate their own wealth and power-sharing arrangements.

While the eyes of most Sudan watchers will skip from the April 2010 elections straight to the January 2011 referendum – they will be missing a potentially critical and organic process unfolding in these two border states. Popular consultation is potentially important for the unifying and reconciling impact it could have on the states themselves, the changes it could produce in the relationship between the states and Khartoum, and the precedent it could set for other aggrieved areas in Sudan – all of which could impact Sudan’s constitution.


  1. interesting indeed. there is a lot of theoretical support for popular consultation, but very little on how it actually operates to create effective deliberation. The idea that it can set a precedent for further centrifugal or centripetal forces is intriguing as well.

  2. I went through the Popular Consultation Law for the two States (The Blue Nile & South Kordofan). I am not confident that, the Consultation will reach a foregone conclusion because:

    In the Law, the Consultancy Commission is formed from the State Legislative Council Members (They consult people).
    The body who negotiate with the Central Gov. is the State Gov.- not the Commission who is carrying out the Consultation.
    To what extent do the State Gov. will accommodate (accept) the Consultancy results? (It makes a difference If the Governor was from the N.C. Party or from the S.P.L.M)
    What Guarantees the transparency of the process? Involvement of NGOs like (SFCG) is required.
    Some people think that, the Consultation means Referendum. If the South chooses to Separate, then they have to decide whether to be a part from the South or the North when the consultation takes place. (People need to be in lighted and advised with the Popular Consultancy).

    A.B. Abu-Elbashar

  3. How would you train communities to understand their role in the process of popular consultation

  4. It was unclear and political from the beginning, in that people were consulted in the signing of the popular consultation and that is why people will still insist in creating referendum out of this popular consultation. I am of those who called for a moraterium to place over the implementation because of its ambiguity to both politicians and the people of these regions. It is now and crystal clear that these regions have remained part of the North when they signed the agreement and that was the part concealed from the populace, because there was mixed message that people Southern Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan will decide whether to join the north or South. Then it gradually changes until this people found themselves to be politicize giving them no option to be free from Al Bashir.

  5. I mean people of these regions of popular consultation were not consulted when popular consultation was signed to the agreement and was not made clear that the package keeps them with north, if the south decide to secede.

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