Sudan to name cabinet as tough challenges loom

Newly appointed Abdalla Hamdok said he will be choosing technocrats based on their experience. (File/AFP)
Updated 28 August 2019

Sudan to name cabinet as tough challenges loom

  • The new PM will pick his top candidates from those forwarded by the Forces for Freedom and Change
  • PM Hamdok said he will also be considering a “fair representation of women”

KHARTOUM: 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 defense 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.
“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 prioritize 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 marginalized 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.
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 toward stability,” he said.

Gulf countries announce measures to cut links with Iran as coronavirus cases rise in Middle East

Updated 15 min 7 sec ago

Gulf countries announce measures to cut links with Iran as coronavirus cases rise in Middle East

  • The UAE suspended all passenger and cargo flights to Iran
  • Kuwait has canceled celebrations for national holidays on Tuesday and Wednesday

DUBAI: Gulf countries announced new measures on Tuesday to cut links with Iran to prevent coronavirus spreading after the confirmation of 20 new cases, all of them people returning from the Islamic republic.

The UAE suspended all passenger and cargo flights to Iran after Kuwait and Bahrain announced the additional cases of COVID-19.

Over the past two days, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman have reported 29 cases of the novel coronavirus among people returning from pilgrimages to Iran, which is battling the deadliest outbreak outside China and where the death toll has reached 16.

Bahrain also announced 9 new cases, bringing the total number affected in the kingdom to 17 — including six Saudi women — after they returned from Iran via Dubai and Sharjah in the UAE.

The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority “suspended all passenger flights and cargo to and from Iran starting today and for one week,” a statement carried by the official WAM news agency said, adding that the ban could be extended.

Also on Tuesday, the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed tweeted that the UAE was ready to provide all forms of support to help China combat the spread of the virus.

Shortly after, the Bahraini authorities said citizens were banned from traveling to Iran “until further notice.”

In neighboring Kuwait, three new cases were recorded among Kuwaiti men who had been under quarantine after returning from Iran.

Oman, which on Monday reported its first cases of coronavirus in two Omani women who had returned from Iran, reported an additional two cases.

Muscat was making arrangements to bring back its citizens from the Islamic republic, the foreign ministry said, a day after it suspended all flights to and from Iran.

Oman also announced that it will suspend the import and export of goods from Iran from Wednesday.

The three countries have large Shiite Muslim populations who frequently travel to Iran to visit holy shrines.

The UAE has already announced 13 coronavirus cases, all foreigners, including an Iranian couple who had traveled from Iran.

Kuwait has canceled celebrations for national holidays on Tuesday and Wednesday and also scrapped all sports events to counter the spread of the disease.