Sudan awaits new cabinet as premier mulls line-up

The transitional council is expected to steer the country through a three-year transition to civilian rule. (File/AFP)
Updated 29 August 2019

Sudan awaits new cabinet as premier mulls line-up

  • The new PM was supposed to pick the nominees for the cabinet on Wednesday
  • A source reports that he still hasn’t made any final decisions

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s new prime minister was Thursday locked in talks to form the first cabinet since the ouster of veteran leader Omar Al-Bashir, in another step in its transition from decades of autocratic rule.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok had been due to name his key picks on Wednesday, following last week’s swearing in of a joint civilian-military sovereign council.
The council is due to steer the country through a three-year transition to civilian rule.
On Thursday a source close to Hamdok said the prime minister was still considering nominees for the cabinet.
“Deliberations are still underway and it is not clear when they will end,” the source told AFP.
Hamdok, who took the oath last week, was set to make his selection from a field put forward by the Forces for Freedom Change — an umbrella group that led months-long protests against Bashir and then pushed the generals who deposed him in April to share power.
On Tuesday, Hamdok confirmed that he had received the FFC’s list of candidates including 49 nominees for 14 ministries.
The FFC and the generals signed a power-sharing deal earlier in August outlining Sudan’s transitional structures.
Under the deal, the cabinet should be largely selected by the premier.
Only the interior and defense ministers will be chosen by the military members of Sudan’s ruling body.
On Saturday, Hamdok told a local television channel that he would select technocrats based on their “competence.”
The delay however raised concerns among some in Sudan.
“It is not good... the country has been without a government for almost five months now,” said 48-year-old Hassan Abdelmeguid, who is a government employee.
“Sudan is facing a great deal of challenges and require quick formation of a government,” he added.
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 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 United States as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Hamdok said he is holding talks with US officials to remove Sudan from Washington’s blacklist.
Another challenge is forging peace with rebel groups in the country’s far-flung regions within six months.
Rebel groups from marginalized regions including Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan state waged long wars against Bashir’s government forces.
The three conflicts have left hundreds of thousands of people killed and millions displaced.
And though the conflict in Darfur which erupted in 2003 has subsided over the years, rebels in other areas remain active.
Wednesday’s delay was not the first challenge facing the country’s transition to civilian rule.
The line-up of Sudan’s 11-member sovereign council was held up for two days over differences within the opposition camp before it was finally announced on August 21.
According to the roadmap toward transition, the new government and the sovereign council are expected to meet for the first time on September 1 but it is now unclear if that date will be kept.
Government employee Sanya Mohamed said the delays may be for good reasons.
“If they serve the purpose of bringing in competent people, then it is alright,” the 33-year-old said.
“But if it was due to disagreements over the candidates then the delay would be worrying. The country can not take it.”


Protests hinder Yemen’s efforts to combat coronavirus

Updated 28 February 2020

Protests hinder Yemen’s efforts to combat coronavirus

  • Amid complaints about the city’s poor health facilities, hospital staff and fearful residents began protesting

AL-MUKALLA: As workers in Yemen’s major port Aden began preparing a coronavirus quarantine facility at Al-Sadaqa Hospital, rumors swirled around the city claiming that if patients were locked inside the hospital, the disease would quickly spread through neighboring areas. 

Amid complaints about the city’s poor health facilities, hospital staff and fearful residents began protesting. People living nearby besieged the hospital, while health workers inside staged a sit-in, refusing to work unless the Health Ministry canceled plans to build the isolation room.

“They threatened to kill me,” Dr. Wafaa Dahbali, Al-Sadaqa Hospital manager, told Arab News.

The hospital’s administration was forced to ask the Health Ministry to move the facility to another location, she said.

“Now we cannot even bring in basic protective items such as masks or gloves since workers will think we still plan to build the quarantine room,” she added.

Yemen, which is gripped by a civil war that has killed thousands of people since late 2014, has intensified efforts to counter coronavirus. But due to crumbling heath services, lack of awareness among people and the influx of hundreds of African migrants via the southern coastline, health officials fear the virus could spread undetected across the country.

Yemen’s Ministry of Health in Aden on Wednesday said that Yemen is free of the disease and all Yemenis returning from China had tested negative. Health Minister Nasir Baoum opened a quarantine center at Seiyun Airport in the southeastern province of Hadramout on Sunday, and said that he had ordered all sea, land and air entry points to ramp up detection measures.

Financial constraints

Health officials across Yemen told Arab News this week that health facilities are working at full capacity to cope with the influx of war casualties, and cases of seasonal diseases such as cholera, dengue fever and H1N1.

The appearance of coronavirus in Yemen would increase the burden on the country’s crumbling and cash-strapped health facilities, they said.

Ibn Sina Hospital in Al-Mukalla provides health services to patients from the three southern provinces of Hadramout, Shabwa and Mahra in addition to treating victims of the conflict in Abyan and Jawf. 

Recently the Health Ministry decided to build a quarantine center at the hospital. Lacking sufficient space, a three-room kitchen was turned into an isolation facility.

However, Dr. Alabed Bamousa, the hospital’s director, told Arab News that the facility could not afford to furnish the unit with medical equipment and staff lacked proper know-how.

“We have nothing at the moment. We asked the ministry for the names of health workers who would be trained by the World Health Organization on dealing with coronavirus patients,” Bamousa said.

He said that workers are not being encouraged to wear masks and gloves in order to avoid triggering panic. 

“My viewpoint is that we shut up till we are ready,” Bamousa said.

Health officials at Al-Mukalla, one of Yemen’s busiest ports, have asked sailors to complete declarations showing their movements before docking.

Riyadh Al-Jariri, head of the Health Ministry’s Hadramout office, said that teams of six health workers in each district in the province are visiting Yemenis who have returned from China. 

In the streets, people say that they get information about the virus from social media rather than official channels or local media outlets.

Hassan, a shopkeeper, said that he learned about symptoms of coronavirus and protection measures from WhatsApp. 

“I know that the virus targets the lung and causes fever. We are advised to wash hands and wear marks,” he said.