Sudan’s post-Bashir transition faces further delay

In this Aug. 21, 2019 file photo, Sudan's new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok speaks during a press conference in Khartoum, Sudan. (AP)
Updated 01 September 2019

Sudan’s post-Bashir transition faces further delay

  • A power-sharing deal formally signed on Aug. 17 between the protest group and the military generals stipulates a legislative body should be formed within 90 days of its signing

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s hard-won transition to civilian rule fell further behind schedule on Sunday, days after the new prime minister delayed the formation of the first government since veteran leader Omar Al-Bashir was ousted.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, a seasoned UN economist who faces the daunting task of rescuing his country’s moribund economy, was supposed to unveil a Cabinet on Wednesday under a post-Bashir roadmap.

But he is still considering the candidates, causing a knock-on delay to the first meeting between the government and the joint civilian-military ruling body overseeing the transition which was supposed to have been held on Sunday. Hamdok, who took the oath on Aug. 21, only received the nominees list from the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) umbrella protest group on Tuesday and has been mulling the candidates since then.

“The FFC was late in submitting the list of nominees to the PM which has ultimately delayed the unveiling of Cabinet,” protest leader Amjed Farid told AFP.

Ibrahim Al-Amin, another protest leader, said the delay “is entirely the responsibility of the FFC” as there were “differences” within the group over the candidates.

On Sunday, the FFC said it held “deep and constructive discussions” with Hamdok the day before about the candidates of the transitional Cabinet. The premier has not publicly commented on the delay.

Sudan swore in a “sovereign council,” a joint civilian-military ruling body, to guide the country through a three-year transitional period nearly two weeks ago.

It is the result of a power-sharing deal formally signed on Aug. 17 between the FFC and the military generals who seized power after ousting Bashir in April.

The deal stipulates a legislative body should be formed within 90 days of its signing.

The legislature should include no more than 300 members, with 201 seats allotted to the FFC. 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.

Amin said the delay in announcing the Cabinet would “certainly have a negative impact” by slowing down the transition.

It is not the first hurdle thrown up in Sudan’s path out of decades of authoritarianism.

The lineup of Sudan’s 11-member sovereign council was held up for two days over differences within the opposition camp, before it was finally revealed on Aug. 21.

Hamdok, who 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, last week confirmed receiving a list of 49 candidates for 14 ministries.

A source close to the premier told AFP on Sunday that “consultations are still under way for the final list.”

Hamdok, who was nominated by the protest movement, had previously said he would be choosing technocrats based on their “competence” to lead Sudan through formidable challenges that also include ending internal conflicts.

Rebel groups from marginalized regions including Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan state waged long wars against Bashir’s forces.

Sudan’s power-sharing deal aims to forge peace with armed groups.

On Saturday, four rebel groups from Darfur said they will be “negotiating with transitional authorities with a unified vision,” without elaborating.

Hamdok’s Cabinet will also be expected to fight corruption and dismantle the long-entrenched deep state created under Bashir’s 30-year rule. 

Bashir was taken to Kober prison in Khartoum shortly after his ouster. The former president was charged on Saturday with illegal acquisition and use of foreign funds.


Hariri and Aoun trade blame as prime minister candidate's withdrawal plunges Lebanon further into crisis

Updated 17 November 2019

Hariri and Aoun trade blame as prime minister candidate's withdrawal plunges Lebanon further into crisis

  • Withdrawal of Mohammad Safadi narrowed the chances of creating a government needed to enact urgent reforms
  • Lebanon's bank staff said they would continue a nationwide strike on Monday

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s outgoing prime minister blasted the party of the country’s president on Sunday after the withdrawal of a top candidate to replace him plunged the country into further turmoil.

Mohammad Safadi, a former finance minister, withdrew his candidacy late on Saturday, saying it was too difficult to form a "harmonious" government with broad political support.

Safadi was the first candidate who had appeared to win some consensus among Lebanon's fractious sectarian-based parties since Saad Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29, pushed out by sweeping protests against the ruling elite.

The withdrawal of Safadi narrowed the chances of creating a government needed to enact urgent reforms.

Reflecting the brittle political climate, President Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) accused Hariri of undermining Safadi's bid in order to keep the job for himself.

"Saad (al-Hariri) is delaying things with the goal of burning all the names and emerging as the saviour," said a source familiar with the FPM's view.

A statement by Hariri's office rejected the FPM assertion as an irresponsible attempt to "score points" despite Lebanon's "major national crisis".

Faced by the worst financial strains since a 1975-1990 civil war, Lebanon has pledged urgent reforms it hopes will convince donors to disburse some $11 billion pledged last year.

The unrest has kept banks shut for most of the last month. They have imposed controls on transfers abroad and US dollar withdrawals, and the pegged Lebanese pound is under pressure on an informal market.

Safadi became the presumed front-runner for prime minister after a meeting between Hariri, a Sunni politician, and Shiite groups Hezbollah and Amal, according to political sources and Lebanese media, but no political force later endorsed him.

Lebanon's prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim, according to its sectarian power-sharing system.

Protesters who have filled the streets since Oct. 17 hit out at the choice of Safadi, a prominent businessman and longtime politician they said was part of the elite they sought to oust.

"We are in a deadlock now. I don't know when it will move again. It is not easy," said a senior political source. "The financial situation doesn't tolerate any delay."

A second political source described efforts to form a new government as "back to square one."

Safadi's withdrawal leaves the powerful, Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies with even fewer options unless they push for a close Sunni ally, a scenario that would likely reduce the chances of Lebanon winning international support. Hezbollah is classified as a terrorist group by the United States and many other countries.

Hezbollah and Amal, along with Aoun, a Maronite Christian, have sought for Hariri to return as premier while including both technocrats and politicians in a new cabinet.

But Hariri, who is aligned with Gulf Arab states and the West, has said he will only return as prime minister if he is able to form a cabinet composed entirely of specialists capable of attracting the international support.

Global ratings agency S&P flashed the latest warning on Lebanon's debt-saddled economy on Friday, lowering its foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings deeper into junk territory to 'CCC/C' from 'B-/B'.

Lebanon's bank staff said they would continue a nationwide strike on Monday that has kept banks shut. The strike is over safety fears as depositors demand access to their money. Union members are set to meet on Monday to discuss a security plan to keep branches safe.