Decentralization: Issues & Application in Sudan from the Good Governance Perspective

By: Aisha Braima

KHARTOUM (SUDANOW) - The decentralization appears to be a substitute to democracy in Sudan, a country which cannot be ruled from the center without genuine delegation and authorization to medium-and local-level administrative units. Moreover, monopolization by the center of an equivalent of 97% of the revenues in some cases not only precipitate discontent among local people resulting from their small share in the commodities and services, but also causes political instability in Khartoum due to aspirants for government positions and wealth accumulated in Khartoum.

This political instability is further aggravated by swarms of the unemployed and those deprived from their country's resources. Shifting the wealth to the states weakens the desire in seizing the power in Khartoum. This was one of the important conclusions reached by Professor Adam al-Zain Mohamed in his book (Decentralization: Issues & Application in Sudan from the Good Governance Perspective).
This book may be important and useful not only because it is an academic and scientific research but also because of the administrative career of the author who had passed through tens of years in the field of administration. He served as an administrative officer during 1968-83, then a province commissioner during 1983-85 and while in-service, he obtained a Master degree in public administration in the University of Pennsylvania, and then he earned PHD in government and administration systems in the University of Florida, the United States of America.
The book is of a medium size of 132 pages printed by the Sudan Banknote Printing Press in February 2011. Instead of chapters, parts or sections, the book is divided into main topics that contain smaller relevant topics.
The first topic discusses the decentralization and relevant concepts, including the decentralization, federation and confederation systems and lastly the decentralization and good governance. Avoiding the sheer academic definitions, the author speaks about overlapping of the terms of decentralization, federation, unity, local, regional or people's government as well as the bodies which execute those systems. He explained that the decentralization is not a goal but is a philosophy and a tool for development that enables the people to participate in taking decisions related to the development of their communities, as the decentralization is basically aimed at shifting the authority and jurisdictions from the high level to the low local levels to be practiced by organizations and institutions in the framework of the national state.
This shift may be provided for in the Constitution and in this case the federation or confederation will be considered constitutional and the power is divided between the center and the administrative units according to the Constitution, rather than the law or the administrative decision. The author indicates that the system of government is defined, as a federal or a united state, by the means in which the powers are transferred, whether by the Constitution, the law or the administrative decision.



The author describes the birth of the federal state as a cesarean operation which is applied only in exigency and therefore most of the states adopt the unity, rather than the united state system which comes from the base, rather than the top. He says the motives of this option are contradictory, either to keep close or distant from the center and for this the author cites the United States of America and Nigeria, offering and interesting explanation.
The second topic of the book discusses the decentralization and division of power in the Western experience, including the transition from despotism to popular rule, decentralization and democracy. The author discusses the roots of decentralization in the West and its justification of adopting it as a way for averting despotism.
The third topic of the book is connected with the decentralization and its application in Sudan, including the need for it in Sudan and South Sudan, leading from the federal system to the self-determination that ended up in secession. It discusses the importance of the decentralization in a vast country of diverse ethnicities that necessitate adoption of a diverse administrative system.
The author remarks that the multiplicity of the decentralization legislations in Sudan is "a remarkable phenomenon", particularly its "politicization". He notes that all the legislations were enacted by totalitarian "military" governments.
The Professor believes that the decentralization is the suitable option for administration of the Sudan which, the author remarks, is "impossible" to be ruled from the center without delegation and authorization of the powers to the medium and local administrative units in the states.
Prof. Mohamed says the problem with the decentralization in Sudan is that it is being politicized and in each instance there was a conspicuous or imperceptible political motive behind the legislations and amendments. The military governments exploited the decentralized bodies to impose the government influence over the states, seeking empowerment through a popular support by adopting certain policies for achieving this goal. He cited as evidence to this the issuance of the guide to the state laws for the local government of 2007 in spite of the implementation of the federal ruling system, something which means that the local government systems in the states differ in conformity with their local demands.
An effective decentralization in Sudan is faced with two main problems – financing and politicization. The financing problem, according to the book, can be resolved by pursuing a rational policy of dividing the resources to the interest of the poorest regions and by commitment to a balanced development policy in the interest of the least developed regions.
The author attributes the imbalance in division of the revenues between the center and the states to absence in the resource-sharing protocol of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (of 2005) of determination of the rates in which the financial resources are divided between the center and the northern states, availing the center with an opportunity to determine those rates, in a discretionary authority, less than what should have been.
The politicization problem can be resolved be introducing a rational local rule that guarantees political participation, rule of law, transparency, accountability and efficiency.
The fourth topic discusses the delegation and authorization as the means for the relegation of powers that includes the delegation, field administration, local rule and marshal report as a basis for the rational local rule. The book in this part attempts to clarify the delegation and authorization concepts which are widely used in the decentralization literature and they were adopted by the Sudan while it was putting legislations for the decentralization even before adopting the federal system.
The fifth topic of the book deals with difficulties of implementation of the rational decentralization in Sudan. It is the largest topic in the book that consists of 12 branch topics that include the Sudanese cultures, the local budget, the development disparity and imbalance between the regions and politicization of the decentralization.
The sixth topic deals with the local rule and the rational rule, making reference to the elements and features of the concept of the rational rule in the 1951 Act and the rational rule features in the project of development of selected regions, a definition of the project and specifications of the rational rule. This topic indicates that the imbalanced development is the greatest threat to the very existence of the Sudan.
The author presents two patterns for the rational rule at the local level to suggest to the decision-maker to benefit from the Sudanese experience in the ruling and administration to be able to share the international concern for the good governance issue.
The seventh topic sets out the road to a rational decentralized government, while the eighth topic contains the conclusion and the ninth one mentions the references of the book which, in general, urges the stakeholders to be concerned with analyzing the general policies and assessment and evaluation of the public projects for the researchers, the political decision-makers and the public in general.


Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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