Sudanese prime minister to announce 'diverse, gender balanced' cabinet within 48 hours

Sudanese prime minister to announce 'diverse, gender balanced' cabinet within 48 hours
Sudan's new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok hopes to form a government that is 'representative of states across Sudan'.
4 min read
03 September, 2019
Hamdok took power last month [AFP]

Sudan's new prime minister will unveil the first cabinet since dictator Omar al-Bashir was overthrown within the next 48 hours, the country's transitional council said on Tuesday.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also arrived in the capital Khartoum on Tuesday to meet with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, a seasoned UN economist who took up the job last month.

Sudan swore in the new premier and a civilian-majority ruling body set to govern the country through a three-year transitional period last month.

The Sudanese prime minister was supposed to announce the cabinet on Wednesday last week, but the announcement was postponed as he mulled the almost 50 nominees put forward by the opposition umbrella movement that led months of protests against the rule of Bashir and the generals who ousted him in April.

Such delays have become characteristic, with an agreement between the generals and the umbrella Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC) long frustrated by difficulties until finally being resolved last month.

But the joint civilian-military sovereign transitional council said on Tuesday Hamdok would announce the cabinet of 14 ministers "within a maximum of 48 hours".

The delay had come because Hamdok "wants to form a government that is more representative of states across Sudan", the council said.

The new prime minister also wishes to ensure "gender balance", added.

The six civilian members of the sovereign council do reflect some of Sudan's diversity, with former judge Raga Issa Abdul Massih - nominated by both civilians and the military - being a Coptic Christian and the first Christian woman to participate in Sudan's leadership since its independence.

But both the AFC and the council have been criticised for sidelining women, who took a leading role in the months of protests running up to the historic power-sharing agreement.

There are only two women among the 11 members, both military and civilian, of the sovereign council.

Read more: Nurturing Sudan's fledgling power-sharing accord

The leadership have also been criticised for failing to include fair representation from Sudan's Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, long marginalised and struck by ethnic strife and a battle between rebel militias and the state.

Sudan's military and paramilitary have been accused of committing war crimes in all three conflict zones.

A more equal gender balance and representation of voices from all sides of Sudan in the new cabinet may go a long way in reassuring skeptics.

A potential candidate is Asma Mohammed Abdullah, a former ambassador at the foreign ministry was among three officials nominated for the foreign minister post.

Her appointment would be the first time a woman represents Sudan as foreign minister.

As well as with reforming Sudan's brittle economy, Hamdok is also tasked with forming a commission to produce peace talks with armed groups.

The power-sharing agreement requires Sudan's new transitional government to forge peace with the rebel groups within six months.

Four rebel groups from Darfur said on Saturday they would be "negotiating with transitional authorities with a unified vision", without elaborating. 

Germany in Khartoum

"Sudan stands at a turning point of its history," the German foreign minister said in a statement ahead of his visit.

The top German diplomat is expected to meet with both Hamdok and the head of the sovereign council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

Maas is only the second western foreign minister to visit Sudan since the prime minister's appointment.

He said he was also looking forward to meeting with representatives from the protest movement "to express my highest appreciation to them".

"We want Sudan to be able to seize this historic chance and, after years of isolation, to receive the necessary support from the international community," he added. 

Ruling against internet blackout

Sudanese civilians also won an important legal victory on Tuesday, Yasir Mirghani, head of the Sudanese Consumer Protection Society, said on Facebook.

Subscribers won their lawsuit against telecommunications companies MTN and Sudani, who stood accused of violating consumer rights by facilitating an internet blackout by the military in June.

The blackout followed the brutal massacre of more than 100 people during the dispersal of a weeks-long sit-in in Khartoum.

The companies will now be required to print full-page apologies in newspapers, among other measures, according to Mirghani.

Another communications freedom victory saw sovereign council leader Burhan on Monday lift a years-long ban on BBC Arabic Radio in Sudan, the Sudan Tribune reported.

The BBC's FM radio broadcasting from Khartoum, Port Sudan and al-Obeid was banned in 2010.