Sudan reshuffles government, hoping to appease protesters

CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s transitional government announced a major Cabinet reshuffle on Thursday, hoping to defuse public discontent over the economic collapse and other crises that have tested the country’s path toward democracy.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok accepted the resignation of six ministers, including the finance minister who has been faulted for failing to rescue the plunging economy. He also dismissed the health minister in the wake of a coronavirus outbreak that has hit the country hard.

A government statement named the acting replacements for the seven posts, which also include foreign, energy, agriculture and transportation ministers.

“The trust that the people have given the transitional government obliges us to listen to the voice of the street,” said Hamdok, referring to the sweeping protest movement that toppled longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April last year.

Following the ouster, Sudan’s military and pro-democracy protesters reached a power-sharing agreement to form the Sovereign Council, made up of army generals and civilians, to rule the country until elections can be held in three years. Still, the military has retained the upper hand in many ways.

The Cabinet shake-up was widely expected after thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Sudan’s major cities again on June 30 to pressure the government to meet their demands. Demonstrators chanted for the speedy appointment of civilian provincial governors and the completion of peace deals with rebels in the country’s restive provinces to end insurgencies there. At the time, Hamdok pledged to take “decisive steps” within two weeks.

The Cabinet reshuffle gives the government room to appoint several ministers from rebel groups, as a condition of peace negotiations expected to conclude in the coming week. The Sudanese Revolutionary Front, a coalition of rebel groups, visited the capital of Khartoum this week to discuss a few outstanding points in the peace deal.

Heba Ahmed Ali, a key official in the finance ministry, was appointed to replace Finance Minister Ibrahim Elbadawi, who inherited a collapsed economy after decades of mismanagement under al-Bashir. Elbadawi was spearheading ambitious economic reform plans sought by foreign donors and the International Monetary Fund, which included painful steps like the slashing of fuel and other subsidies.

While necessary, the reshuffle seems unlikely to satisfy demonstrators, said Osman Mirghani, a Sudanese analyst and the editor of the daily al-Tayar. Other key officials, such as the commerce minister, have kept their jobs despite calls for them to be dismissed.

“Hamdok was actually forced to do this,” he said. “But I do not think the government has any real road map for how to create deeper change.”

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