Sudan awaits new cabinet as premier mulls line-up

2019-08-30 10:40

Sudan's new prime minister was on Thursday locked in talks to form the first cabinet since the ouster of veteran leader Omar al-Bashir, as the country transitions from decades of autocratic rule.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok had been due to name his key picks on Wednesday, following last week's swearing in of a joint civilian-military sovereign council.

The council is due to steer the country through a three-year transition to civilian rule.

On Thursday a source close to Hamdok said the prime minister was still considering nominees for the cabinet.

"Deliberations are still underway and it is not clear when they will end," the source told AFP.

Hamdok, who took the oath last week, was set to choose from a field put forward by the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) - an umbrella group that led months-long protests against Bashir and then pushed the generals who deposed him in April to share power.

On Tuesday, Hamdok confirmed that he had received the FFC's list of 49 nominees for 14 ministries.

The FFC and the generals signed a power-sharing deal earlier this month outlining Sudan's transitional structures.

Under the deal, the cabinet should be largely selected by the premier.

Only the interior and defence ministers will be chosen by the military members of Sudan's ruling body.

On Saturday, Hamdok told a local television channel that he would select technocrats based on their "competence".

'Great deal of challenges'

The delay has raised concerns among some in Sudan.

"It is not good... the country has been without a government for almost five months now," said 48-year-old Hassan Abdelmeguid, a government employee.

"Sudan is facing a great deal of challenges and requires quick formation of a government," he added.

Sudan's economy was dealt devastating blows by two decades of US sanctions, which were only lifted in 2017, and the 2011 secession of the oil-rich south.

Spiralling inflation and acute hardship were the main triggers for the anti-Bashir protests that erupted in December.

Much-needed foreign investment remains hampered by Sudan's designation by the United States as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Hamdok said he is holding talks with US officials to remove Sudan from Washington's blacklist.

Another challenge is forging peace with rebel groups in the country's far-flung regions - a task that is supposed to be completed within six months.

Rebel groups from marginalised areas including Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan state waged long wars against Bashir's government.

The conflicts have killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.

And while fighting in Darfur has subsided in recent years, rebels in other areas remain more active.

'Worrying delay'

The new cabinet will also be expected to fight corruption and dismantle the long-entrenched Islamist deep state created under Bashir's 30-year rule.

Shortly after he was deposed, 75-year-old Bashir was transferred to the maximum-security Kober prison complex in Khartoum. He faces a raft of corruption charges.

Sudan suffered high rates of corruption under his rule, ranking 172 out of 180 countries in Transparency International's 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Wednesday's delay was not the first challenge facing the country's political transition.

The line-up of Sudan's 11-member sovereign council was held up for two days over differences within the opposition camp, before it was finally revealed on August 21.

According to the transition roadmap, the new government and the sovereign council are expected to meet for the first time on September 1.

But it is increasingly unclear if that date will be kept.

"The delay is worrying and makes us suspect that the country's leaders will not adhere to the timeline provided in the power-sharing deal," said 22-year-old student Hisham Azhari.

But government employee Sanya Mohamed said there could be valid reasons behind the delay.

"If they serve the purpose of bringing in competent people, then it is alright," the 33-year-old said.

"But if it was due to disagreements over the candidates then the delay would be worrying. The country cannot take it."

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