Hamdok, UN economist turned Sudanese premier

Hamdok was born in 1958 in the state of South Kordofan. (AP)
Updated 22 August 2019

Hamdok, UN economist turned Sudanese premier

  • Hamdok vowed to devise an urgent recovery program addressing the shortages of basic commodities that have plagued Sudan and its 40 million inhabitants recently

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s new prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, is a seasoned economist who faces the daunting task of rescuing his country’s moribund economy.
Hamdok built a career in continental and international organizations, most recently as deputy executive secretary of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa.
He was welcomed off the plane Wednesday by two civilian members of the new Sovereign Council that was sworn in hours earlier and will oversee his government’s work.
The joint civilian-military council replaced the transitional military council that took charge in April when Islamist general Omar Al-Bashir was forced from power by relentless street protests.
The Sudanese people’s main expectation of Hamdok will be tangible solutions to the dire economic crisis Bashir’s rule and the last few months of political turmoil have caused.
“With the right vision, with the right policies, we will be able to address this economic crisis,” he told reporters after taking the oath on Wednesday.
He vowed to devise an urgent recovery program addressing the shortages of basic commodities that have plagued Sudan and its 40 million inhabitants recently.
The protests that eventually ended Bashir’s 30-year rule were ignited in December last year by the tripling of bread prices.
In the longer term, Hamdok emphasised the need to improve productivity and rebuild a banking sector he said had all but collapsed.
His credentials as an economist seem solid, as was abundantly documented in the official biography distributed to media during his oath-taking ceremony.
The text stressed Hamdok is “highly credible among African finance and development institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the Paris Club” of creditor countries.
Hamdok worked for the African Development and Trade Bank and is credited with shaping some of the policies that spurred Ethiopia’s rapid economic growth under the late prime minister Meles Zenawi.
Greeted as the savior of Sudan’s economy, the greying, moustachioed technocrat was all smiles when he took questions from journalists on his first day on the job.
While he was outside Sudan and not directly involved in the protest movement that terminated Bashir’s rule, Hamdok’s appointment appeared to be well received by the population.
“He has the skills we need the most at the moment,” said Sumaila Ibrahim, a 21-year-old student at Khartoum University.
Hamdok is also an alumnus, having completed a degree in agricultural economics in the capital before moving to Manchester in the United Kingdom for his masters.
Besides his credentials as an economist, Hamdok has carved an image as a champion of transparency and good governance in the course of his rich career in African organizations.
He sat on the board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which was founded by the eponymous Sudanese-British billionaire to promote good governance and leadership in Africa.
Last year he turned down an offer by Bashir to become finance minister as part of a government reshuffle.
As the head of Sudan’s future government, which according to a roadmap laid out by protest leaders and generals is to be formed by August 28, Hamdok is not only in charge of the economy however.
He will need to draw on his experience in his various African peace-building initiatives to bring an end to deadly conflicts in Sudan’s regions of Darfur, Kordofan and Blue Nile.
This is where the co-existence between generals who all rose to their positions in Bashir’s wings and the civilians in the transition’s new institutions could be most tested.
Hamdok was born in 1958 in the state of South Kordofan, which found itself on Sudan’s southern border when South Sudan became independent in 2011, after decades of war with the north.
His own native village is now in a war zone and Hamdok will be keen to push for a resolution of Sudan’s civil conflicts, but he has his work cut out reconciling the military with the rebels.
US Congressman Jim McGovern, a keen observer of Sudanese affairs and vocal critic of Bashir’s Islamist regime, highlighted that pitfall in a statement on Wednesday.
“I look forward with hope to a transitional period that places the rights and aspirations of the Sudanese people front and center,” the Democrat said.
“I have grave concerns, however, about whether military and political officials associated with the former regime will prove trustworthy partners given their history of violence, repression, corruption and bad faith,” he warned.


Outsider leads after divisive Tunisia presidential poll

Updated 34 min 46 sec ago

Outsider leads after divisive Tunisia presidential poll

  • Law professor Saied and magnate Karoui, after exit polls showed they had qualified for the second round of voting

TUNIS: Political outsider Kais Saied was leading Tunisia’s election with just over a quarter of votes counted, the election commission said Monday, in the country’s second free presidential vote since the Arab Spring.
Saied was on 19 percent, leading imprisoned media magnate Nabil Karoui, who was on 14.9 percent, and ahead of the candidate from the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party Abdelfattah Mourou (13.1 percent).
The announcement came after both Saied and Karoui’s camp claimed to have won through to the second round, in the highly divisive polls.
Local papers splashed photos across their front pages of law professor Saied and magnate Karoui, after exit polls showed they had qualified for the second round of voting.
“An unexpected verdict,” ran a headline in La Presse.
Le Temps titled its editorial “The Slap,” while the Arabic language Echourouk newspaper highlighted a “political earthquake” and a “tsunami” in the Maghreb.
The initial signs point toward a major upset for Tunisia’s political establishment, in place since the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
It could also usher in a period of immense uncertainty for the fledgling north African democracy, the sole success story of the Arab Spring revolts.
Tunisia’s electoral commission (ISIE) reported low turnout at 45 percent, down from 64 percent in the country’s first democratic polls in 2014.
Late Sunday, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed called on the liberal and centrist camps to band together for legislative elections set for October 6, voicing concern that low participation was “bad for the democratic transition.”
Chahed, a presidential hopeful whose popularity has been tarnished by a sluggish economy and the rising cost of living, could well turn out to be the election’s biggest loser.
The election comes against a backdrop of serious social and economic crises.
Karoui, a 56-year-old media magnate, has been behind bars since August 23 on charges of money laundering and Tunisia’s judiciary has refused his release three times.
A controversial businessman, labelled a “populist” by critics, Karoui built his appeal by using his Nessma television channel to launch charity campaigns, handing out food aid to some of the country’s poorest.
His apparent rival is political neophyte Saied.
The highly conservative constitutionalist, known to Tunisians for his televised political commentary since the 2011 revolt, has shunned political parties and mass rallies. Instead, he has opted to go door-to-door to explain his policies.
He advocates a rigorous overhaul of the constitution and voting system, to decentralize power “so that the will of the people penetrates into central government and puts an end to corruption.”
Often surrounded by young acolytes, he also set forth his social conservatism, defending the death penalty, criminalization of homosexuality and a sexual assault law that punishes unmarried couples who engage in public displays of affection.
“It’s going to be new,” said a baker named Said on Monday, issuing a wry smile.
“We’ll have to wait and see. Anyway, what matters in Tunisia is the parliament.”
The first round was marked by high rates of apathy among young voters, pushing ISIE head to put out an emergency call to them Sunday an hour before polls closed.
On Sunday morning, senior citizen Adil Toumi had asked as he voted in the capital “where are the young people?“
Political scientist Hamza Meddeb told AFP “this is a sign of very deep discontent with the political class that has not met economic and social expectations,“
“Disgust with the political elite seems to have resulted in a vote for outsiders.”
Distrust of the political establishment runs high in Tunisia, where unemployment is at 15 percent and the cost of living has risen by close to a third since 2016.
Extremist attacks have exacted a heavy toll on the key tourism sector.
Around 70,000 security forces were mobilized for the polls.
The date of a second and final round between the top two candidates has not been announced, but it must be held by October 23 at the latest and may even take place on the same day as legislative polls, October 6.