Sudan Table of Contents
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.
Police post near Yei, western Al Istiwai State
Courtesy Robert O. Collins
Police force in Maridi
Courtesy Robert O. Collins
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 to him.
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 drug traffic.
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
Sudan Table of Contents