Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

Sudan's new prime minister vows to work on economy and peace

Abdalla Hamdok was sworn in hours after the new sovereign council took office

Hours after the new 11-member sovereign council took office in Sudan, the country’s new prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, was sworn in and vowed to make achieving peace and solving the country's economic crisis a priority.

The appointment of the renowned economist came as Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, the outgoing head of the military council, was sworn-in as leader of the new Sovereign Council that will run the country for three years until an election after decades of autocratic rule.

"The revolution's deep-rooted slogan, 'freedom, peace and justice,' will form the programme of the transitional period," Mr Hamdok told reporters at a news conference in Khartoum.

Gen Al Burhan and other military officers removed veteran leader Omar Al Bashir in April after months of growing protests at the dire economic situation and the years of dictatorship.

While Sudanese people celebrated Mr Al Bashir's fall, they also pressed for a handover of power to civilians during a turbulent period of protests and violence, including a crackdown on a protest camp outside the Defence Ministry that opposition medics say killed more than 100 people in June.

The United States, Britain and Norway welcomed Mr Hamdok's appointment, calling it a historic moment for Sudan.

"The appointment of a civilian-led government presents an opportunity to rebuild a stable economy and create a government that respects human rights and personal freedoms," the Troika, as the three countries are known, said in a joint statement.

The composition of the 11-member Sovereign Council that will run the country for the transition period, replacing the military council that has is now disbanded, was completed on Tuesday, consisting of five civilian and five military figures plus one consensus civilian picked by both sides.

Nine members of the council were sworn in about two hours after Gen Al Burhan took the oath on Wednesday. The final member, Mohamed Al Hassan Al Taishi, will be sworn in at a later, unspecified date, state news agency SUNA said.

"With the start of the transition period, we have entered the most complex phase, the phase of building and reform," said Al-Rashed Saeed, spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association, a key part of the Forces for Freedom and Change coalition that negotiated with the military council.

Among the military men sworn in were Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti. The outgoing deputy head of the military council, Gen Dagalo has become a growing political force in Sudan.

He heads the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group that has a heavy presence in Khartoum whose genesis is in a tribal militia that fought rebels in the western Darfur region in the 2000s’.

Civilian representatives on the council are mostly little-known figures, including Rajaa Nicola Abdel Maseeh, a Christian, who was the civilian member jointly chosen by the military and the opposition coalition.

Gen Al Burhan, dressed in military uniform, was sworn in before the head of the judiciary at the presidential palace in Khartoum. The other members were sworn in before the judiciary head and Gen Al Burhan in the afternoon.

The Sovereign Council, which held its first meeting shortly after the members' swearing-in, is now the highest authority in the country but will largely delegate executive powers to a Cabinet of ministers led by the prime minister.

The nomination of Mr Hamdok to the role underlines the daunting task of repairing an economy battered by years of US sanctions and government mismanagement during Mr Al Bashir's 30-year rule.

A shortage of foreign currency, resulting in a cash crunch and long lines for fuel and bread, triggered the protests that helped push Mr Al Bashir out.

Updated: August 22, 2019 02:27 PM

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