10 May 2017

Sudan: All Eyes On Khartoum As Bashir Set to Name an Inclusive New Government

Photo: The Citizen
Omar-al-Bashir of Sudan.

Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir is forming a new government that includes the opposition as part of his efforts at national reconciliation.

The National Accord Government, which was initially set to be launched on Thursday last week but has now been pushed to anytime this coming week, is also part of President al-Bashir's efforts to end the war in Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur, and to continue strengthening Khartoum's relations with the United States in an effort to have the remaining sanctions by the latter lifted.

Sudanese ambassador to Kenya Elsadig Abdalla Elias, told The EastAfrican that the country is expecting an announcement anytime and that the idea is to accommodate as many political parties and other organisations as possible that participated in the National Dialogue launched in 2014 and concluded last October after the signing of the National Document.

Already, the government has changed the Constitution to include the position of prime minister -- which was scrapped after President al-Bashir took power in a coup in 1989 -- and Bakri Hassan Salih, who is also the vice-president, has been appointed to the position.

The new government will not only do a comprehensive review of the Constitution, but also expand parliament to absorb the various interest groups. These will for the next one year in consultation, review the draft constitution which that created the National Accord Government.

"The president has already declared that 50 per cent of the seats -- Cabinet, National Assembly, State Governments and State Parliament -- will go to the opposition," said Mr Elias.

However by Thursday, only three national parties, the Popular Congress Party (PCP), the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), and a breakaway faction of the National Umma Party (NUP), out of the 80 political parties that participated in the year-long National Dialogue, had expressed interest in joining the national Accord Government.

PCP secretary-general Ali al-Hag Mohamed is campaigning for his party to get the Ministries of Industry and International Co-operation and also the post of assistant minister for Communication. The PCP was founded by the late Islamic ideologist Hassan al-Turabi, after falling out with President al-Bashir in 1999.

But NUP, headed by former prime minister Sadique Al-Mahdi, who was overthrown by President al-Bashir in 1989, is yet to confirm participation and has denied claims by some splinter groups that the party will be part of the new government. NUP split when al-Mahdi took a two-year self-exile in Egypt; the splinter group known as "NUP General Current" is led by Khalil Hamouda.

On the other hand, SLM leader Abu-Al-Gasim Imam has been meeting top government officials with the intention of participating in the new government. The number of additional parliamentary seats to accommodate various groups is still under discussion.

Currently, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has 323 Members of Parliament out of the total 426. The Democratic Unionist Party has 25, DUP-Jalal al-Digir has 15, 19 are independent candidates, while other small parties have 44 seats.

But the main challenge is that three main rebel groups fighting the government of Khartoum declined to participate in the National Dialogue and are not likely to be incorporated in the new government.

These are Sudanese People's Liberation Movement-North led by Malik Agar, and the three rebel movements based in Darfur: The Sudan Liberation Movement led by Minni Minnawi, the Sudan Liberation Army led by Abdul Wahid and the Justice and Equality Movement.

President al-Bashir is hoping that the United States will view his reaching out to the opposition positively and lift the remaining sanctions. Last October, the US administration lifted the sanctions on banking transactions, especially for humanitarian and individual purposes, but still retained Sudan on the list of terrorist sponsors.

Sudan has also been grappling with US military sanctions that began with the country being designated a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993, followed by economic sanctions in 1997. Last year, Khartoum allowed humanitarian operations in Darfur, a region that has been mired in conflict since 2003.

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