The announcement of Sudan's new government positions has revealed that the ruling National Congress Party has given up 12 positions — six ministers and six state ministers — but it retains key positions, with the exception of the Ministry of the Interior.
Over the next few days, journalists, commentators and analysts will be trying to assess the likely impact of the new government which has taken more than two months to put together. The main reason given for the delay is the intense nature of the consultations. Last month, at a press conference held by Presidential Assistant Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid, we were told that, even at such a late stage, there were two parties that had still not handed in their lists of nominees. One of those parties was the Popular Congress Party (PCP), which eventually handed in its list late on Thursday last week. By Sunday, though, a major public disagreement in its ranks over the decision to participate in the process led to the resignation of the head of the PCP's political office, Kamal Omar, who cited "betrayal" and a "breakdown in party leadership" as the reasons for his departure.
Newspaper headlines suggested that Omar saw Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the PCP's founder, Hassan Abdallah Al-Turabi, in a dream advising against the deal. Whatever the truth of the matter, Omar was adamant that participation in government without guaranteed constitutional freedoms would be a betrayal of the principles established by the late PCP founder and leader Al-Turabi. Omar was referring to the decision not to amend the constitution in order to reduce the powers of the national intelligence and security services. His resignation was a confirmation that some elements in the opposition still view the government with distrust. The other party that had delayed the submission of its candidates appears to have been the Democratic Union Party because of a split within its ranks.
Media reports at the beginning of April suggested that DUP leader Mohammed Al-Mirghani and his son Mohammed Al-Hassan were at loggerheads. In the end, Ahmed Said Omer of the DUP was appointed Minister to the Presidency and five other DUP members of different factions were given government roles. Opposition groups not taking part in the process have accused the government repeatedly of betrayal; they claim that under President Omar Al-Bashir's leadership some 40 treaties have been signed and broken. However, Al-Bashir's creation of the new prime ministerial position in response to opposition demands, his prompt release and pardoning of more than 230 political prisoners and his appointment of opposition figures to state and federal positions has been welcomed in many quarters. Nevertheless, after yesterday's announcement, many feel that the government has not gone far enough to reward opposition groups and those who followed the two year National Dialogue process.
Journalists at last night's press conference expressed shock that the Chairman of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) and head of the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), Dr Tijani Sese, had been dropped from his presidential advisory position and was not rewarded with the position of Deputy Prime Minister as expected.The appointment of Mubarak Al-Fadil from the National Umma Party as Minister of Investment was also greeted with some surprise. Al-Fadil is a former presidential adviser who runs the breakaway group from the main Umma Party led by the former Prime Minister Sadiq Al-Mahdi; he is the only leader of a major opposition or splinter party to have been given a prominent ministerial position.
However, political commentator Yasir Ali told MEMO that last night's announcements should not be seen as the government's final position with regard to such appointments. "Yesterday's events followed a familiar pattern," he explained. "The government announces the positions late on a Thursday and swears in ministers on a Friday; but by the end of the weekend there might yet be more changes and further announcements over the coming weeks."According to a journalist speaking to MEMO on condition of anonymity, though,
There is a lot of disappointment about the major appointments that has seen Dr Sese sidelined and kept the [ruling] NCP playing and holding all the cards.
As the nation comes to terms with a new era of Sudanese politics, the hope is that economic prosperity can lead to political harmony and accommodation. At the press conference, there were also pointed questions about government priorities. "It is clear that the priorities and policies are already stated in the long national dialogue document," responded Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Saleh. "Our job will be to make sure that we accomplish those aims for the benefit of the Sudanese people."
His comments will be scrutinised by a large audience as Sudan treads the road to long-awaited democratic political pluralism for an inclusive peace that can avert the kind of damaging scenarios found in Libya, Syria and Yemen. For Yasir Ali there is no turning back. "The European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Gulf states, all of them, have thrown their weight collectively behind Sudan," he explained.
After years of having to deal with a world hostile to Sudan, if we want to encourage investment and rebuild the Sudanese economy then political stability is an important step along that road.
He insisted that the Sudanese are hopeful that this new government can be successful. "However, these are small steps and the people recognise that it might take a little time, not much, before we see tangible changes." There may well be mixed feelings over the new government appointments, but there is also optimism. There are many who hope that it is justified.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.