Regional and Local Administration
Relations between the central government and local authorities
have been a persistent problem in Sudan. Much of the present pattern
of center-periphery political relationships-- local officials
appointed by authorities in Khartoum--originated in the early
part of the century. During most of the AngloEgyptian condominium
period (1899-1955), the British relied upon a system called indigenous
administration to control local governments in nonurban areas.
Under this system, traditional tribal and village leaders--nuzara
(sing., nazir), umada (sing., umda),
and shaykhs--were entrusted with responsibility for administrative
and judicial functions within their own areas and received financial
and, when necessary, military support from the central authorities.
Following World War II, pressures arising from younger and better
educated Sudanese led the British in 1951 to abandon administration
by local rulers in favor of a system of local government councils.
As they evolved under successive national administrations following
independence in 1956, a total of eighty-four such councils were
created and entrusted with varying degrees of community autonomy.
This system, however, was plagued by problems of divided power,
the councils being responsible to the minister of local government
whereas provincial governors and district commissioners remained
under the supervision of the minister of interior. Effectiveness
varied from one local authority to another, but all suffered from
inadequate finances and a shortage of trained personnel willing
to serve in small, isolated communities. In the south, such problems
were compounded when hundreds of colonial officials were replaced
by Sudanese civil servants, almost all of whom were northerners.
In many rural areas of Sudan, the system in the early years of
independence was little different from the old indigenous administration
dominated by the conservative, traditional elite, while in most
cities the effectiveness of councils was seriously weakened by
The Abbud regime sought to end the dual features of this system
through the 1961 Local Government Act, which introduced a provincial
commissioner appointed by the central government as chairman of
the provincial authority, an executive body of officials representing
Khartoum. The 1961 law was not intended to be a democratic reform;
instead, it allowed the central government to control local administration
despite the existence of provincial councils chosen by local governmental
and provincial authorities.
Soon after coming to power in the military coup of 1969, the
Nimeiri government abolished local and regional government structures.
The People's Local Government Act of November 1971 designed a
pyramidal structure with local community councils at the base
and progressively higher levels of authority up to the executive
councils of the ten provinces. By 1980 community councils included
an estimated 4,000 village councils, more than 800 neighborhood
councils in cities and towns, 281 nomadic encampment councils,
and scores of market and industrial area councils. In theory,
membership on these local councils was based on popular election,
but in practice the councils were dominated by local representatives
of the Sudan Socialist Union, the only political party that Nimeiri
permitted to function. Above the community councils was a second
tier of local government structures that included 228 rural councils
and 90 urban councils. A third tier consisted of thirty-five subprovincial
district councils, and at the apex were the province commissions,
presided over by the province governor appointed from Khartoum.
Although there were some changes following Nimeiri's overthrow
in 1985, the local government structures remained relatively intact.
Parliament devolved more authority to community councils and reorganized
the functions and powers of the province commissions. In February
1991, the RCC-NS instituted a major change in local government
by introducing a federal structure. The federalism decree divided
the country into nine states: Aali an Nil, Al Awsat, Al Istiwai,
Al Khartum, Ash Shamali, Ash Sharqi, Bahr al Ghazal, Darfur, and
Kurdufan. Generally, both the borders and names of the states
are similar to the historical nine provinces of Sudan during the
colonial period and early years of independence. The states were
further subdivided into 66 provinces and 218 local government
areas or districts. The RCC-NS appointed a governor, deputy governor,
and council of ministers for each state. These officials were
responsible for administration and economic planning in the states.
They also appointed the province and district authorities in the
states. The latter officials, for the most part the same persons
who occupied local government posts before the federal structure
was introduced, continued to be responsible for elementary and
secondary education, health, and various government programs and
services in the cities, towns, and villages .
Data as of June 1991