Sudan’s transitional government was finally sworn in, on Sunday, after multiple weeks of negotiations and delays, marking the first step toward achieving the demands of the four-month revolution.
The new cabinet is the first since the ouster of long-time president Omar Al-Bashir, who remained in power for almost 30 years.
The 18-member cabinet led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, included four women, marking unprecedented representation of women in the Sudanese government. Also, the country now has a female foreign minister for the first time.
The ministerial portfolios held by women included Asmaa Abdallah as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Walaa Essam Al-Boushi as Minister of Youth and Sports, Lina Al-Sheikh as Minister of Labour and Development, and Intisar Al-Zein as Minister of Higher Education.
Asmaa Abdallah is not only the first female foreign minister in Sudan, but also the Arab world.
Women played a leading role in the months of street protests against Al-Bashir’s rule which started December 2018. Hundreds of females were detained during the uprising and many others were beaten and sexually harassed by security forces, as reported by political activists and witnesses during the revolution.
The cabinet formation came as a result of the power-sharing deal between protesters and military generals who came in power after the ouster of Al-Bashir in April. Two ministers are yet to be appointed, where Hamdok stated that he is still negotiating with the pro-democracy movement over the last two posts.
The cabinet is expected to steer the daily affairs of the country during a transition period of 39 months when general elections are scheduled to be held. The prime minister has said he was adamant that his cabinet is representative of all of Sudan’s regions, including areas which had, in the past, been routinely overlooked.
The next step is the creation of a transitional legislature in which women have been guaranteed at least 40% of its 300 seats. The chamber should sit by November at the latest. The Forces of Freedom and Change, a wide coalition of civilian and opposition forces, will select two thirds of the members, while the remainder will come from political parties outside the alliance.
Hamdok, who previously served as an economist at the United Nations, said in a press conference on Sunday that his country will begin a new phase through the new government which will work in harmony and with integrity, referring that their priorities are to end the long-running conflicts in western and southern Sudan and to establish peace.
The Sudanese prime minister explained that there is a need to reconsider the issue of the public budget, saying: “If we can sign peace agreement in a period of one to six months, this will create a good atmosphere because the war spent 70-80% of our budget, so we can then spend more on education and infrastructure and restore production through a strong and sustainable economy.”
The newly appointed Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Badawi said “We have a 200-day programme for reviving the economy in a way that could help reduce the cost of living for our people in the near term.”
“We also have a long-term plan to restructure the overall economy,” he said, adding the country is expecting new donations soon to help tackle some immediate challenges.
Economy is the biggest challenge facing the new government, as it has collapsed since the south seceded in 2011, which led to the deprivation of the north of three quarters of its oil reserves.
The new Sudanese government is required to work on the provision of foreign exchange to finance and cover the import bill for basic commodities such as fuel and flour.
The new government is also striving to negotiate the removal of Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism and extremism, as well as reducing the country’s military spending, which represents up to 70% of the public budget.
Vice-President of the Egyptian Council for African Affairs, Salah Halima, said that the government will face a series of difficult challenges that require confrontation, and if the government managed to overcome them this will represent a great criterion for its success, which undoubtedly came at a difficult stage in the history of Sudan.
The government of Hamdok will have to deal with the economy file in order to improve it as well as living conditions, especially after the hike in prices.
The economic conditions were the main motive behind the protests that came out against the former Sudanese president.
He referred to the importance of dealing with armed factions in Sudan, where a dialogue should be established with the various factions in order to overcome the presence of armed groups in Sudan, deeming that this will be difficult work, but not impossible for the new Sudan.
“Among the government of Hamdok will be its tasks to work in cooperation with other Sudanese institutions, to achieve a foreign policy more in harmony with the Arab region, and to move away from axes adopted by Al-Bashir which brought to Sudan a lot of internal and external conflicts,” Halima concluded.
Moreover, Seif El-Din Soliman, a Sudanese journalist and analyst, expressed his high hopes for the new transitional government which he believes represents all the national sectors in the country and is not a partisan government as it was during the last 30 years under the rule of Al-Bashir.
The new government has many challenges, but the people have to remain united as they have been in recent months so that the government can carry out its tasks, Soliman urged, asserting that restoration of security and stability and the enforcement of law and social justice must be on the list of priorities of the new transitional government to promote the economy and restore the power of the state.
However, Al-Bashir’s rule has come to an end, as the human rights, political and economic situations in Sudan deteriorated. Many of the protestors who called for peace, justice, rule of law, and economic reforms have paid the price of change with their lives and liberty.
Sudanese Court formally indicted former Al-Bashir on corruption and holding illicit foreign currency during his third trial last week.
This came after authorities had seized €6.9m, $351,770 and 5.7m Sudanese pounds at Al-Bashir’s home which he acquired and used illegally. Al-Bashir said he had received $ 25 million from Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, as well as funds from other sources, but he claimed that he did not use the money for his own benefit.
Al-Bashir has been detained since being ousted from power in April after months of protests.The ousted president was initially facing charges of illegally possessing foreign currency, corruption. He was also charged in May with incitement and involvement in the killing of protesters, and prosecutors also want him questioned over suspected money laundering and terrorist financing. Additionally, he has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of masterminding genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region.
Al-Bashir was one of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) longest-running fugitives. The court has issued two arrest warrants for the former Sudanese leader – the first on 4 March 2009 and the second on 12 July 2010. He stands accused of criminal responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide following the killing, maiming, and torturing of hundreds of thousands of people in the Sudanese region of Darfur.