December 8, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has endorsed a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle that was promised to satisfy the party and the country’s desire for a leadership overhaul.
- Sudanese president Omer Al-Bashir speaks during a press conference in Khartoum on 22 September 2013 (Photo ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Nafie Ali Nafie, who lost his position as NCP’s vice chairman and president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir’s assistant, has confirmed reports that the presidential affairs minister, Lieutenant General Bakri Hassan Saleh, was promoted to become Sudan’s first vice-president. The foreign ministry under-secretary, Salah Wansi, replaced Saleh.
The NCP secretary of external relations, Ibrahim Ghandour, took over from Nafie in both roles.
While foreign minister Ali Karti, Minerals minister Kamal Abdel-Latif retained their posts in the new cabinet, it remains unclear if defence minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein will remain in his position.
The minister of federal government, Hasabu Mohamed Abdel-Rahman, was tipped to become the second vice-president, which was previously held by Al-Haj Adam Youssef who defected from the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP).
Abdel-Rahman is better known for his role as the commissioner of the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) during the height of the conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.
Former first vice-president Ali Osman Mohamed Taha this week that he had pre-empted the reshuffle and handed over his resignation to allow for change and new blood. Taha does not appear to have been assigned a new role in the government contrary to speculation he would be appointed as the new parliamentary speaker.
Addressing a rally of supporters in the town of Qura in north Khartoum on Sunday, Bashir repeatedly denied Taha’s resignation was the result of internal conflict, saying the reshuffle should not be read as an indication of splits within the government ranks as some “liars” have asserted.
Taha is credited with engineering the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended the north-south civil war, which continued for more than two decades.
He was also the main driver behind the ouster of Hassan Al-Turabi, who orchestrated the 1989 coup that was on the face of it led by Bashir.
Turabi later formed the PCP and became the fiercest critic of Bashir’s government.
Apart from Taha, the new cabinet saw the departure of veteran oil minister Awad Al-Jaz, who was replaced by the head of Sudan’s Railway Commission, Makawi Awad. Controversial finance minister Ali Mahmoud Abdel-Rasool also lost his post, with the deputy governor of the central bank, Badr Al-Deen Mahmoud, appointed to the role.
The powerful electricity and water resources minister, Osama Abdullah, also left out of the cabinet in favour of Mu’ataz Musa who was the head of the ministry’s projects’ department.
Interior minister Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid will now head the agriculture ministry after his predecessor, Abdel-Haleem Ismail Al-Muaafi, was removed. Abdel-Wahid Youssef was appointed as the new interior minister.
As part of the shake-up, Tahani Abdullah was appointed telecommunications minister and Sumaya Abu-Kashawa as higher education minister.
Al-Tayeb Hassan Badawi was named minister of culture and Al-Sameeh Al-Sideeg as minister of industry.
In the legislative branch al-Fatih Ezz al-Deen replaced Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Tahir as speaker, with Essa Bushra appointed as his deputy.
The shake-up has been anticipated since earlier this year amid deep divisions within the ruling party in the wake of a coup attempt staged last year by NCP supporters and Islamists in the military.
Another crisis shook the NCP when more than 30 of its top members, including the former parliamentary caucus head, Ghazi Salah Al-Deen Al-Attabani, presented a memo to president Bashir in September, criticising the government’s decision to remove subsidies on fuel and other basic commodities, saying it “harshly” impacted on Sudanese citizens.
They also chided the government for its excessive use of force against protesters who took to the streets to protest against the subsidies cut and call for deep political and economic reforms.
They also urged Bashir to form a mechanism for national reconciliation comprised of various political forces and assign the economic dossier to a professional national economic team.
“The legitimacy of your rule has never been at stake like it is today”, they said in a letter addressed to Bashir, which was seen as a direct challenge to the president, now the country’s longest serving leader.
Bashir formed a committee headed by national assembly speaker Ibrahim Al-Tahir to investigate signatories to the petition, which was circulated publicly.
The commission of inquiry recommended dismissing three members, including Attabani, and temporarily suspending nine others. The decision was endorsed by the NCP leadership council and the Shura (consultative) council.
Al-Attabani and others later declared their intention to leave the party and form a new one that the group claimed would “bring new hope to Sudan”.
Besides the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and several smaller parties, no other major opposition parties are expected to join the new cabinet.