Sudan to name cabinet as tough challenges loom

Khartoum (AFP) –


Sudan is Wednesday due to announce the members of a new cabinet faced with a mountain of challenges after months of unrest, including rebuilding the economy and ending internal conflicts.

Newly-appointed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok will name his key picks from nominees put forward by the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), an umbrella group that led protests against veteran president Omar al-Bashir and the generals who ousted him in April.

The cabinet announcement comes after a joint civilian-military ruling body was sworn in last week to steer the country through a three-year transition period.

"I received on Tuesday afternoon the nominees for ministers provided by the FFC," Hamdok said, adding that it includes 49 nominees for 14 ministries.

Hamdok said he would also take into account a "fair representation of women".

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

"We are looking to create a homogeneous team to level up to these challenges," he said.

The cabinet is expected to comprise a maximum of 20 ministers, largely picked by Hamdok with the exception of the interior and defence ministers, who will be chosen by the military members of Sudan's ruling body.

The first meeting bringing together the new government and the ruling body is scheduled for September 1.

- 'Sustainable peace' -

"The coming cabinet will enjoy a massive popular backing as it confronts the challenges ahead," said Osman Mirghani, a Sudanese analyst and editor-in-chief of independent daily Al-Tayyar.

Mighrani says the cabinet should prioritise striking peace deals with armed groups across Sudan, especially those that rejected the transition roadmap.

Earlier in August, the FFC and the generals officially signed a power-sharing deal outlining their vision for Sudan's transitional period.

It included forging peace with armed groups within six months.

Hamdok has vowed to "end war and bring about sustainable peace" in Sudan.

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

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the three conflicts and millions displaced, with hundreds of thousands of displaced still living in sprawling camps.

And though the conflict in Darfur which erupted in 2003 has subsided over the years, rebels in other areas remain active.

Bashir was indicted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide in the vast western region.

Another pressing challenge before the government is economic recovery.

- Cautious optimism -

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 economic 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 US as a state sponsor of terrorism.

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

Eager for change, Sudanese are eyeing the new government with cautious optimism.

"I'm very optimistic especially after the new PM's remarks that he would choose cabinet members based on their competence," said 32-year-old Mohamed Amin, an employee of a private company in Sudan.

"Their skills will be put to true test as they face the challenges ahead."

Mohamed Babiker, a 65-year-old farmer, agreed.

For him, revamping the economy is tied to the government's ability to tap into the country's natural resources and agricultural potential.

"If it manages to do so, it would go a long way towards stability," he said.