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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Sudan reshuffle brings in new oil and foreign ministers

President Omar Al Bashir made the changes after signs of economic crisis

Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir addresses the nation during the 62nd Anniversary Independence Day at the Palace in Khartoum, Sudan, on December 31, 2017. Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah / Reuters Photo
Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir addresses the nation during the 62nd Anniversary Independence Day at the Palace in Khartoum, Sudan, on December 31, 2017. Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah / Reuters Photo

Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir has appointed new oil and foreign ministers in a major cabinet reshuffle that saw four other ministers changed amid a worsening economic crisis, state media reported.

The reshuffle, announced late on Monday, comes weeks after Mr Bashir sacked his previous foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour following his comments that he had been unable to pay diplomats for months.

The cabinet overhaul was approved by Mr Bashir's ruling National Congress Party at a meeting late on Sunday, the official news agency SUNA reported.

A presidential decree replaced his oil, interior, agriculture, youth and sports and justice ministers and a new foreign minister, Al-Dierdiry al-Dhikheri, was also announced.

The reshuffle saw Ibrahim Hamid named as interior minister and Azhari Abdallah as oil minister.

Mr Dhikeri, former Sudanese ambassador to Uganda, had been a member of Khartoum's team that negotiated the separation of south from the north in 2011.

Mr Hamid, an aide to Bashir, had previously headed the interior ministry from 2008 to 2015.

On Monday, Mr Bashir also changed five ministers of state and eight governors, SUNA reported.

Last month Mr Ghandour - who led negotiations with Washington to lift a decades-old trade embargo on Khartoum - was fired after he told parliament his diplomats had gone unpaid for months.

Before that sacking, Mr Bashir had also replaced the head of Sudan's powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

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For Mr Dhikeri, the main challenge ahead was how to steer negotiations with Washington for removing Sudan from the United States' list of "state sponsors of terrorism". Sudan is on Washington's blacklist along with Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Although the United States lifted the sanctions on October 12, it kept Sudan in the SSTL, which Sudanese officials say is hampering the country's economic revival.

Sudan has been facing financial difficulties amid an acute shortage of foreign currency that has seen the economy deteriorate.

The foreign currency shortage has seen the pound plunging against the dollar, forcing the central bank to devalue it twice since January.

Expectations of a quick economic revival were high in the aftermath of the lifting of Washington's sanctions imposed since 1997.

Washington had imposed sanctions for Khatrtoum's alleged backing to Islamist militant groups. Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan between 1992 and 1996.

But officials say the situation has not changed at all as international banks continue to be wary of doing business with Sudanese banks because Khartoum continues to be on the terrorism blacklist.

Sudan's overall economy had been hit particularly hard after the south separated from the north, taking with it about 75 percent of oil earnings.

A surging inflation rate of about 56 percent, regular fuel shortages and rising prices of food items have often triggered sporadic anti-government protests in Khartoum and some other towns.

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