Name: Ali Mahmood Abdel-Rasool / Ali Mahmood Abd al-Rasul
Born: Rahid al-Bardi, southern Darfur.
Position: Sudan’s Minister for Finance and National Economy
Political Affiliation: National Congress Party (NCP)
Education: Economics, University of Khartoum in 1983.
Born in Rahid al-Bardi in southern Darfur in the early years of Sudanese independence, Ali Mahmood Abd al-Rasul hails from the same Ta’isha ethnic group that provided the only ever Darfuri to have ruled contemporary Sudan – the Khalifa Abdullahi, who succeeded the Sudanese Mahdi and ruled over the Mahdist State in between 1885 and 1898.
Ali Mahmood’s appointment as finance minister in 2010 made him the third Darfuri with a cabinet portfolio, in addition to the vice-president al-Haj Adam Yousuf in September 2011. This has led some Sudanese to term the current regime ‘hukuma al-ghuraba’ (‘the government of the Westerners’), though Ali Mahmood himself is unsurprisingly keen to express his nationalist sentiments in interviews and distance himself from any regionalist agenda.
Many Darfuris are not fond of him – when he was governor of south Darfur state in 2008, Fur leaders believed him to have been compliant with massacres instigated by the government in Kalma IDP camp. Whilst unpalatable to many outside the regime, he is nevertheless relatively well qualified as a technocrat – he graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Khartoum in 1983, and worked for a couple of years on World Bank agricultural projects, before serving within the finance ministry and then as state finance minister for south Darfur.
Being in office at a time when South Sudan’s independence has resulted in the disappearance of 75% of Sudan’s oil reserves, Ali Mahmood is faced with seemingly overwhelming challenges as head of the ministry of finance. He possesses the task of restructuring an economy distorted by years of overspending, agricultural neglect and oil dependency.
Ali Mahmood has encouraged the public to cut down on luxury items, eerily echoing the remarks of Sudan’s second military president Jafa’ar Nimeiri during the economic crisis of the mid-1980s, which infuriated the Sudanese public so much they brought about his downfall in the intifada of 1985. Mahmood observed, ‘I have spoken to the Sudanese people about the importance of returning to our local products; to corn, millet and to Kisra [Sudanese corn bread] and cooking it [at home]’.
Unlike other Sudanese officials, Mahmood had been candid about the severity of the economic crisis facing the country, which perhaps reflects the fact that his own role is now to impose stringent austerity measures. At the beginning of 2011, he announced sharp increases in the prices of petroleum products and sugar, whilst slashing the salaries of government officials by 25%.
In May 2012 Ali Mahmood appeared to play a key role in the resignation of the governor of Gedaref State, Karamallah Abbas. The former governor resigned shortly after dissolving his state government upon returning from Khartoum where he reportedly clashed with Mahmood over financial disbursements in arrears not paid to his state government. Abbas lashed out at Ali Mahmood saying the finance minister has more powers than the presidency. He warned that that the central government is now on the verge of collapse because it had become a one-man show.
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