INTERNAL SECURITY AGENCIES
Apart from in the south, domestic order in Sudan was a shared
responsibility of the military, the national police force, and
security organs of the Ministry of Interior. Martial law was in
effect in government-controlled areas of the south and in some
northern areas as well.
The Sudan Police Force
The Sudan Police Force (SPF) had its beginnings in 1898 when
a British army captain was placed in the central administration
for police duties, and thirty British army officers directly responsible
to him were detailed to organize provincial police establishments.
The arrangement proved overly centralized, however, and complete
decentralization of police control was introduced in 1901. As
great differences arose in the standards and performance of the
police in the various provinces, a modified form of administrative
control by the central authorities was decreed in 1908, with the
provincial governors retaining operational control of the forces.
The SPF was officially established by the British in 1908 and
was absorbed by the Sudanese government on independence in 1956.
It was technically and economically impractical for the police
to cover the entire area of Sudan; therefore, a system of communal
security was retained for more than seventy years. The central
government gave tribal leaders authority to keep order among their
people. They were allowed to hire a limited number of "retainers"
to assist them in law enforcement duties. This system was finally
abolished by the Nimeiri government in the early 1970s.
Under Nimeiri, command and administration of the SPF was modified
several times. The police were responsible to the minister of
interior until 1979, when the post of minister of interior was
abolished and various ministers were made responsible for different
areas of police work. This arrangement proved unwieldy, however,
and the Police Act of 1979 instituted a unified command in which
the head of the force reported directly to the president. After
Nimeiri's fall, the cabinet position of minister of interior was
restored, and the director general of police was made responsible
Central police headquarters in Khartoum was organized into divisions,
each commanded by a police major general. The divisions were responsible
for criminal investigations, administration, training, public
affairs, passport control, immigration, and security affairs.
The main operational elements were the traffic police and the
riot police. The 1979 legislation brought specialized police units,
such as that of the Sudan Railways, under the authority of the
SPF headquarters. The Khartoum headquarters maintained liaison
and cooperation with the International Criminal Police Organization,
Interpol, and with agencies involved in combating international
The government's new system of administration delegated many
powers to the regional level, but law enforcement outside major
urban areas remained provincially oriented. Thus, the national
police establishment was subdivided into provincial commands,
which were organized according to the same divisions found in
the national headquarters. Local police directors were responsible
to provincial police commissioners, who in turn were responsible
to the SPF director general in Khartoum. Each provincial command
had its own budget.
The SPF expanded from roughly 7,500 officers and men at independence
in 1956 to approximately 18,000 in 1970 and 30,000 by the mid-1980s.
Except for the south where internal security in government-held
areas was the responsibility of military and security organs,
the police establishment was distributed roughly in proportion
to population density but was reinforced in areas where there
was a likelihood of trouble. In some places, the police were too
thinly scattered to provide any real security. It was reported
that there were no police stations along the Nile from the town
of Wadi Halfa on the Egyptian border south to Dunqulah, a distance
of about 300 kilometers. Elsewhere in the north, police posts
could be staffed by as few as two police with insufficient transport
or communications equipment to patrol their district. Efforts
to control smuggling were apparently the responsibility of the
armed forces and the security authorities.
Police officer cadets usually received two years of training
at the Sudan Police College near Khartoum. The institution was
equipped to provide theoretical and practical instruction; it
also served as a training school for military personnel who required
police skills in their assignments. In addition to recruit training,
the college offered instruction in aspects of criminal law, general
police duties, fingerprinting, clerical work, photography, and
the use of small arms. Enlisted recruits usually underwent four
months of training at provincial headquarters. Although not numerous,
women served in the SPF in limited capacities. They were generally
assigned to administrative sections, to juvenile delinquency matters,
or to criminal cases in which female Sudanese were witnesses or
defendants. The Bashir government announced plans to remove women
from the police, but, according to one report, a number of women
were actually promoted to higher positions because of the mass
firing of senior male police officers.
Provincial police had traditionally enjoyed good relations with
the community, but during the Nimeiri regime many people regarded
them more as the object of fear than as a source of security.
The police were said to have acted appropriately-- firmly but
with restraint--during civil demonstrations in the first half
of the 1980s. Since the resumption of civil war in 1983, serious
abuses of human rights have not generally been attributed to the
police, as they have been to the armed forces, government militias,
and security organizations. Police treatment of persons under
arrest could be harsh. Police patrols in Khartoum have harassed
or beaten people occasionally without apparent motive. Public
order campaigns in Khartoum, often targeting southern refugees,
could result in roundups of thousands charged with illegal street
vending or loitering. In urban areas police reportedly often acted
against refugees, stealing from them and beating them for minor
infractions. Refugees seldom had recourse to the legal system
when attacked by the police. The police were known to have inflicted
floggings summarily for drinking alcohol or for curfew violations.
Brutality increased after the 1989 coup, but roundups and floggings
declined somewhat after officials of the Bashir government promised
closer supervision of the police.
Data as of June 1991