KHARTOUM, SUDAN - Sudanese citizens have largely embraced the sovereign council’s move to appoint Nemat Abdallah as Sudan’s first female chief justice, a first in the Arab world.
Nemat Abdallah Mohammed Khair’s appointment is monumental not only for Sudan but for all of Africa. She is only the fifth female justice named in Africa, after Ghana, Ethiopia, Seychelles and Lesotho.
Wafa Adam, who works for the local non-governmental organization Siha, which advocates for women’s rights in Sudan, is elated that a woman now holds a top position in the country, something that was unthinkable for decades under former President Omar al-Bashir.
“I am very excited about that and she is going to support the women and she is going to advocate for women and laws. We expect her to support the women movements and the women,” Adam told VOA's South Sudan in Focus.
Adam said Sudan is one of three Muslim countries that has not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). She expects Abdallah to ratify CEDAW and to work to reform Sudanese local laws that oppress women.
“For example, public order law, family law and criminal law and many laws that are not supporting women’s rights, we request her to advocate for reforming those laws,” Adam told VOA.
Israa Dawood, a Sudanese youth who took part in the protests that led to Bashir's ouster, said Abdallah's appointment is historic.
“This is a huge milestone for Sudan and now we are depending on the judiciary so much, so that atrocities committed during the revolution’s period would be brought to book. Abdallah has played a significant role during the revolution and everybody has pushed for her appointment,” Dawood told South Sudan in Focus.
Haj Hamad, a political science lecturer at Khartoum University, said Abdallah’s appointment as chief justice proves that the overwhelming number of Sudanese trust women’s leadership skills.
“This is a major breakthrough from earlier policies of a different regime in the country, that providing a reprisal step of women professionals and leaders to occupy such kind of very high ranking and influential post,” Hamad said.
Abdallah was initially nominated as chief justice soon after military leaders and the opposition signed a power-sharing agreement in late August, but Sudan's new executive body, the sovereign council, instead named a man to the post. Public protests led the council to reverse course and appoint her as chief justice on October 10.
Hamad said Abdallah will likely face numerous obstacles during Sudan’s three-year transitional government, but added that the new chief justice will likely stand firm to defend the country’s constitutional declaration and all laws that govern the country.
According to the constitutional document signed on August 17, 2019, the chief justice names the judiciary council.
In addition, the chief justice heads the judiciary and serves as president of the nation's Supreme Court.
Carol Van Dam contributed to this report