Monday 21 August 2017

Sudan's first PM since 1989 coup sworn in

Sudan's first PM since 1989 coup sworn in
(AFP 03/03/17)

A former army general and top aide to President Omar al-Bashir was sworn in Thursday as Sudan's first prime minister since the post was scrapped in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup.

Bakri Hassan Saleh, a military officer involved in the bloodless coup that brought Bashir to power three decades ago, was named prime minister on Wednesday by the executive bureau of the president's National Congress Party (NCP).

"Today, we took the major step of appointing Bakri Hassan Saleh as prime minister," Bashir announced at a press conference after the swearing-in ceremony.

Saleh, 68, who will also retain his current post of Sudan's first vice president, was sworn in at a presidential palace in Khartoum.

Bashir abolished the post of prime minister after the coup, and analysts said Saleh's appointment as premier was an attempt to give the president's decades-old regime a new look.

The appointment falls in line with reforms proposed by a year-long national dialogue held between Bashir's government and some opposition groups.

In October, after a quarter century in power, Bashir concluded the national dialogue aimed at resolving insurgencies in Sudan's border regions and healing the country's crisis-wracked economy.

The talks, launched in 2015, were boycotted by most mainstream opposition and armed groups.

"Our country is at an historic moment as it harmonises all political parties and powers which took part in the national dialogue," Saleh said in a statement after taking the oath of office.

- New government -

A new government led by Saleh as prime minister is expected to be formed in the coming days.

"All those who participated in the national dialogue will be represented" at different levels of the adminstration, Bashir said.

Sudanese lawmakers had voted in December to reinstate the post of prime minister.

They also approved major amendments to a transitional constitution adopted in 2005 ahead of Sudan's north-south split in 2011 following two decades of civil war.

While the amendments give the new prime minister responsiblity for executive power, the president retains the right to form a government or sack ministers.

"General Bakri's appointment is broadly a continuation of Bashir's rule rather than a new chapter in Sudan's politics," Khaled Tigani, editor-in-chief of weekly newspaper Elaff, told AFP.

"But at the end of the day it depends on the leadership that General Bakri manages to show."

Saleh, a key aide to Bashir for decades, has previously held key ministerial portfolios including interior and defence.

He has also been adviser to Bashir on national security and was head of Sudan's all powerful National Security and Intelligence Service in the 1990s.

Bashir had led the 1989 coup against then-prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi with the help of Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi.

Mahdi fled abroad more than two years ago but returned to Sudan last month.

A fixture of Sudanese politics since the 1960s, Mahdi served as prime minister from 1966 to 1967 and again from 1986 to 1989.

His government was the last to be democratically elected in Sudan before the coup.

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